No, I’m not talking about Skittles, I’m talking about something a little bit better—a neurological condition. Sure, there are a number of strange disorders that can happen in the brain (Down Syndrome, Aphasia, ADHD, etc.) but out of all them, the one that fascinates me the most is Synesthesia. For those of you who already know what that is, it’s easy to see why I, or anyone else, can develop such a high interest in this particular disorder. For those of you are unfamiliar with Synesthesia, it is a neurological disorder where a person’s senses are mixed up. For example, a person with Synesthesia may see colors when they hear certain sounds, or see certain letters and numbers in different colors. In a 2006 interview with some syntesthetes by ABC News, they revealed what it’s like to live with this condition:
What’s interesting is that this disorder, or condition, is not located in the DSM-IV. However, there is a set of guidelines used when diagnosing a person with Synesthsia. Developed by Dr. Richard Cytowic, a leading researcher in Synethesia, Synesthesia must be:
- Involuntary–Synesthetes have no control over their perceptions, nor do they think about them
- Projected–The colors or visual simulations are not seen inside the mind but outside
- Durable and Generic–Perceptions are usual the simple and the same, they never change
- Memorable–Synesthetes better rememeber the colors or tastes they experience than the actual object (for example: if the synesthete sees the color blue when hearing a person’s name, they will remember the color instead of the person’s name)
- Emotional–The experiences usually cause the synesthete emotional reactions
Research suggests that one in 2,000 people will have Synesthesia, with the most common form being colored hearing: seeing colors when hearing voices, sounds, or music just like the synesthetes in the video above. It is such a complicated condition that many researchers are uncertain of how it develops. There are many hypothesis though, Baron- Cohen, PhD, who studies Synesthesia at the University of Cambridge, and his colleagues suggest that Synesthesia is the result of an overabundance of neural connections. This excess of neural connections breaks down the way the brains network usually functions which then yields the synesthetic experiences.Others researchers such as Daphne Maurer, PhD, and Psychologist at McMaster University, suggest that everyone is born with the neural connections to cause Synesthesia and that we eventually lose it, except for the select few, as we grow. Despite all these speculations and research, no studies have been able to be done on the brains of synesthetes as none have donated their brain to science. If you’re interested in this particular disorder as I am, here’s your chance! Go out and do research, and perhaps I’ll be looking up your study as reference.
Now, how do people with Synesthesia feel about having to live with this condition?
“If you ask synesthetes if they’d wish to be rid of it, they almost always say no,” Simon Baron-Cohen , PhD, says. “For them, it feels like that’s what normal experience is like. To have that taken away would make them feel like they were being deprived of one sense.”
Although disorders and conditions are usually considered unfortunate, Synesthesia is definitely one I wouldn’t mind having! It’s definitely a unique way to experience life and if i did have the disorder, I would donate my brain in a heartbeat.
What do you think about this disorder? Do you know of any other ones that are just as fascinating? Let me know, I’d love to learn!
For those of you who are really interested to learn more, here are some other videos that I think you will enjoy!
Carpenter, S.. Everyday fantasia: The world of synesthesia. N.p., Marc. Web. 19 Nov 2011. <http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.asp&xgt;.
Jensen, A.. “Synesthesia.” . N.p., 2007. Web. 19 Nov 2011. <http://www.lurj.org/article.php/vol2n1/synesthesia.xml>.