Could you imagine what it would
be like to taste a shape, to hear a colour or to
see a sound? In fact we do it all the time. We
use metaphor and analogy across the senses to
describe everything from food and wine to art
and music. But supposing it wasn't just
imagining, but real experience and that every
time you tasted mint you could actually see and
feel a smooth cold cylinder of glass. This
condition is called synesthesia.
Meanwhile the word “anaesthesia”
means no sensation, “synesthesia” means joined
sensation. And what is joined is two, three, or
all five senses together. Synesthesia is not
just something that it can be hear, but also
something that can be see, or smell, or touch.
Music for example is not just a
sound and a melody, but it's like visual
fireworks that can be seen on a little screen,
in the mind’s eye, in a sort of a TV analogy.
Synesthesia is fairly rare; it
happens in about one in 25,000 individuals
world-wide. It occurs in women more than men;
women are twice as likely to be synesthetic than
men, and it also runs in families. So most
synesthetes are surprised to discover as
children that their playmates and families don't
perceive the world in the same way.
This is a holistic
conscious awareness in that a
sound is not just a sound but it's also a taste,
and a shape, and movement, and a location in
space, and a colour. Whereas for most of us,
it's just a sound.
That synesthesia, far from being
a bizarre and incredible kind of LSD experience,
is actually a slice of perception, and is
normal. All of us are synesthetic, however in
most of us, this holistic way of perceiving the
world never comes to conscious awareness.
For more information:
The Health Report
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