Synesthesia: Think You Have Extra Sensory Powers?

When you say it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, do you actually tastes something bad? For most people, it is just an expression of contempt or anger, nothing to be taken literally. But a chosen few actually experience the literal side of things. People with synesthesia can get a certain taste in their mouth when they hear a particular sound. They also hear colors, which sounds pretty unusual, and experience other cross-sensory phenomena due to synesthesia.


What is it exactly?

This refers to a perceptual condition of mixed sensations. Synesthetes, as patients are called, have normal sensations but with a few extras. While most people associate color with the eyes, those with synesthesia also link colors with sound, which is why they hear them.

In a recent imaging done on a brain, patients who claim they hear words in color every time someone mentions a name, also showed activity on the part of the brain that is associated with color. While the condition is not entirely bad or life threatening, research shows that it may have an effect on a patient’s perception of the world. They may find certain pairs of words to be completely unrelated even if they are relatable on certain levels.


On a positive note, some synesthetes experience richer perceptions, have better memories, and can solve a complicated puzzle three times faster than average people.

According to Daphne Maurer, PhD, a professor at McNaster University in Ontario, “We may all have some form of synesthesia at birth. As our bodies develop, we end up with a highly specialized area of the brain that almost exclusively processes sounds, another that processes taste, and so on. That process isn’t as complete with individuals with synesthesia”. The condition is hereditary and is present in a person for the rest of his life.

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