How would it alter your take on the world if your senses were connected to one another? Are you in the four to twenty-five percent who have this distinctive “wiring”?

Have you ever seen shapes and colors while listening to music? Do the textures around you evoke a certain taste in your mouth? Do the words on this page have a definite color when you look at them?

These are some classic experiences for those who have synesthesia; a condition that might hit pretty close to home for many of us yet may have escaped our awareness completely. So, without further ado, let’s explore.

Image: Abstract blobs of color

Source: Pixabay

You or someone you know might have this condition called Synesthesia—4% of people have it—where the normal pathways of the 5 senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing) are unusually intertwined in the brain. If it’s you, you might just think everyone experiences the world as you do, and if it’s someone you are close to, you may have always thought they were a little eccentric in the way they reacted to the world.

In fact, according to an article in Psychology Today, 20-25% of people who are “artistic” have some form of synesthesia 1. This could be a game-changer!

So let’s dive into this amazing world where an uncommon brain can point to wonder-full possibilities.

First up, we’re going to get familiar with synesthesia with this short but sweet TED-Ed video.

Via: TED-Ed 2

So, are you a synesthete?

Now that you know a little more, give this some thought. Do you, or someone you know, seem to experience the world differently?

Many people go their whole lives without knowing they have any form of synesthesia. In fact, like many, I didn’t realize I had this sort of wiring until I was 12 years old. In my case, when I listen to music I perceive every instrument to have its own color and pattern or shape. White noises are visual as well but they are more like looking at transparent textured objects for each sound. Until I learned what synesthesia was, I thought this was just how everybody perceived sound!

Here’s a fabulous video from the World Science Festival, that explains just how this all works!

Maybe this phenomenon is more widely known than we think!

All of us commonly encounter synesthetic phrases in our language, describing a sound as “sharp,” somebody as “blue,” or a new restaurant as “cool.” A sound obviously can’t poke you, a sad person doesn’t change colors, and because a restaurant is described as cool, doesn’t mean you need to wear a parka. Yet, we understand these phrases to equate a feeling or color to a characteristic.

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Translating synesthesia through art!

While common turns of phrase give us a glimpse into the synesthetic mind, to understand something as incredible as sound-to-color synesthesia sometimes the best way is to turn to a translator. This is where the work of Melissa McCracken comes in.

Her beautiful artwork is giving us all a way to see what the synesthetic experience looks like…

If you want to tap into more wonder about Synesthesia…

Whether you are still curious and hungry for more on this topic or you’re having an ah-ha moment about yourself or a loved one, this fantastic TED Talk will help you achieve a super understanding of the wonder involved in the brain!

Incredible work like this is a wonderful reminder that each of us sees the world in vastly different ways. The tapestry of human experience is rich with unique human experiences to be talked about and celebrated!

Stay curious!

  • Louisa

Want to explore a little more?

See what you can find in this category…

Science on EWC

Notes:

  1. Zabelina, Darya L. “Are You a Synesthete?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 24 Apr. 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-butterfly/201104/are-you-synesthete.
  2. “What Color Is Tuesday? Exploring Synesthesia – Richard E. Cytowic.” YouTube, TED-Ed, 10 June 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkRbebvoYqI. Accessed 15 June 2018.
  3. “What Is Synesthesia?” YouTube, World Science Festival, 26 Aug. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDLKWDSx4g0. Accessed 15 June 2018.
  4. “Seeing a Song: Painting What She Hears.” YouTube. Great Big Story, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbh7tAnwLCY>.
  5. Ward, Jamie. “The Curious World of Synaesthesia | Jamie Ward | TEDxCambridgeUniversity.” YouTube, TEDx Talks, 29 Nov. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=taKx_stlUOQ. Accessed 15 June 2018.

Louisa Ulrich-Verderber grew up in Fairfield, VT and was a “thought leader” in several fields by the time she was 20 years old. She had invented an entirely new way of going to high school and was able to graduate with a provisional patent on a new Wind Turbine technology. She was given the EF Global Citizen award and has spoken on stage in front of audiences of 400 to 1000 people. She is also an artist, making enormous metal sculptures that can be seen at BEaSPARK.com. Louisa now attends Clarkson University as a Presidential Scholar studying engineering.