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Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes
Scientific American ^ | April 13, 2003 | By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward M. Hubbard

Posted on 04/14/2003 6:28:48 PM PDT by vannrox

April 13, 2003

Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes

People with synesthesia--whose senses blend together--are providing valuable clues to understanding the organization and functions of the human brain

By

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward M. Hubbard

When Matthew Blakeslee shapes hamburger patties with his hands, he experiences a vivid bitter taste in his mouth. Esmerelda Jones (a pseudonym) sees blue when she listens to the note C sharp played on the piano; other notes evoke different hues--so much so that the piano keys are actually color-coded, making it easier for her to remember and play musical scales. And when Jeff Coleman looks at printed black numbers, he sees them in color, each a different hue. Blakeslee, Jones and Coleman are among a handful of otherwise normal people who have synesthesia. They experience the ordinary world in extraordinary ways and seem to inhabit a mysterious no-man's-land between fantasy and reality. For them the senses--touch, taste, hearing, vision and smell--get mixed up instead of remaining separate.

Modern scientists have known about synesthesia since 1880, when Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, published a paper in Nature on the phenomenon. But most have brushed it aside as fakery, an artifact of drug use (LSD and mescaline can produce similar effects) or a mere curiosity. About four years ago, however, we and others began to uncover brain processes that could account for synesthesia. Along the way, we also found new clues to some of the most mysterious aspects of the human mind, such as the emergence of abstract thought, metaphor and perhaps even language.

A common explanation of synesthesia is that the affected people are simply experiencing childhood memories and associations. Maybe a person had played with refrigerator magnets as a child and the number 5 was red and 6 was green. This theory does not answer why only some people retain such vivid sensory memories, however. You might think of cold when you look at a picture of an ice cube, but you probably do not feel cold, no matter how many encounters you may have had with ice and snow during your youth.

Another prevalent idea is that synesthetes are merely being metaphorical when they describe the note C flat as "red" or say that chicken tastes "pointy"--just as you and I might speak of a "loud" shirt or "sharp" cheddar cheese. Our ordinary language is replete with such sense-related metaphors, and perhaps synesthetes are just especially gifted in this regard.

We began trying to find out whether synesthesia is a genuine sensory experience in 1999. This deceptively simple question had plagued researchers in this field for decades. One natural approach is to start by asking the subjects outright: "Is this just a memory, or do you actually see the color as if it were right in front of you?" When we tried asking this question, we did not get very far. Some subjects did respond, "Oh, I see it perfectly clearly." But a more frequent reaction was, "I kind of see it, kind of don't" or "No, it is not like a memory. I see the number as being clearly red but I also know it isn't; it's black. So it must be a memory, I guess."

To determine whether an effect is truly perceptual, psychologists often use a simple test called pop-out or segregation. If you look at a set of tilted lines scattered amid a forest of vertical lines, the tilted lines stand out. Indeed, you can instantly segregate them from the background and group them mentally to form, for example, a separate triangular shape. Similarly, if most of a background's elements were green dots and you were told to look for red targets, the reds would pop out. On the other hand, a set of black 2's scattered among 5's of the same color almost blend in [see sidebar]. It is hard to discern the 2's without engaging in an item-by-item inspection of numbers, even though any individual number is just as clearly different from its neighbors as a tilted line is from a straight line. We thus may conclude that only certain primitive, or elementary, features, such as color and line orientation, can provide a basis for grouping. More complex perceptual tokens, such as numbers, cannot do so.

We wondered what would happen if we showed the mixed numbers to synesthetes who experience, for instance, red when they see a 5 and green with a 2. We arranged the 2's so that they formed a triangle. If synesthesia were a genuine sensory effect, our subjects should easily see the triangle because for them, the numbers would look colored.

When we conducted pop-out tests with volunteers, the answer was crystal clear. Unlike normal subjects, synesthetes correctly reported the shape formed by groups of numbers up to 90 percent of the time (exactly as nonsynesthetes do when the numbers actually have different colors). This result proves that the induced colors are genuinely sensory and that synesthetes are not just making things up. It is impossible for them to fake their success. In another striking example, we asked a synesthete who sees 5 tinged red to watch a computer display. He could not tell when we surreptitiously added an actual red hue to the white number unless the red was sufficiently intense; he could instantly spot a real green added to the 5.

Visual Processing
Confirmation that synesthesia is real brings up the question, Why do some people experience this weird phenomenon? Our experiments lead us to favor the idea that synesthetes are experiencing the result of some kind of cross wiring in the brain. This basic concept was initially proposed about 100 years ago, but we have now identified where in the brain and how such cross wiring might occur.

An understanding of the neurobiological factors at work requires some familiarity with how the brain processes visual information [see illustration on opposite page]. After light reflected from a scene hits the cones (color receptors) in the eye, neural signals from the retina travel to area 17, in the occipital lobe at the back of the brain. There the image is processed further within local clusters, or blobs, into such simple attributes as color, motion, form and depth. Afterward, information about these separate features is sent forward and distributed to several far-flung regions in the temporal and parietal lobes. In the case of color, the information goes to area V4 in the fusiform gyrus of the temporal lobe. From there it travels to areas that lie farther up in the hierarchy of color centers, including a region near a patch of cortex called the TPO (for the junction of the temporal, parietal and occipital lobes). These higher areas may be concerned with more sophisticated aspects of color processing. For example, leaves look as green at dusk as they do at midday, even though the mix of wavelengths reflected from the leaves is very different.

Numerical computation, too, seems to happen in stages. An early step also takes place in the fusiform gyrus, where the actual shapes of numbers are represented, and a later one occurs in the angular gyrus, a part of the TPO that is concerned with numerical concepts such as ordinality (sequence) and cardinality (quantity). (When the angular gyrus is damaged by a stroke or a tumor, the patient can still identify numbers but can no longer divide or subtract. Multiplication often survives because it is learned by rote.) In addition, brain-imaging studies in humans strongly hint that visually presented letters of the alphabet or numbers (graphemes) activate cells in the fusiform gyrus, whereas the sounds of the syllables (phonemes) are processed higher up, once again in the general vicinity of the TPO.

Because both colors and numbers are processed initially in the fusiform gyrus and subsequently near the angular gyrus, we suspected that number-color synesthesia might be caused by cross wiring between V4 and the number-appearance area (both within the fusiform) or between the higher color area and the number-concept area (both in the TPO). Other, more exotic forms of the condition might result from similar cross wiring of different sensory-processing regions. That the hearing center in the temporal lobes is also close to the higher brain area that receives color signals from V4 could explain sound-color synesthesia. Similarly, Matthew Blakeslee's tasting of touch might occur because of cross wiring between the taste cortex in a region called the insula and an adjacent cortex representing touch by the hands.

Assuming that neural cross wiring does lie at the root of synesthesia, why does it happen? We know that it runs in families, so it has a genetic component. Perhaps a mutation causes connections to emerge between brain areas that are usually segregated. Or maybe the mutation leads to defective pruning of preexisting connections between areas that are normally connected only sparsely. If the mutation were to be expressed (that is, to exert its effects) in some brain areas but not others, this patchiness might explain why some synesthetes conflate colors and numbers whereas others see colors when they hear phonemes or musical notes. People who have one type of synesthesia are more likely to have another, which adds weight to this idea.

Although we initially thought in terms of physical cross wiring, we have come to realize that the same effect could occur if the wiring--the number of connections between regions--was fine but the balance of chemicals traveling between regions was skewed. So we now speak in terms of cross activation. For instance, neighboring brain regions often inhibit one another's activity, which serves to minimize cross talk. A chemical imbalance of some kind that reduces such inhibition--for example, by blocking the action of an inhibitory neurotransmitter or failing to produce an inhibitor--would also cause activity in one area to elicit activity in a neighbor. Such cross activation could, in theory, also occur between widely separated areas, which would account for some of the less common forms of synesthesia.

Support for cross activation comes from other experiments, some of which also help to explain the varied forms synesthesia can take. One takes advantage of a visual phenomenon known as crowding [see sidebar]. If you stare at a small plus sign in an image that also has a number 5 off to one side, you will find that it is easy to discern that number, even though you are not looking at it directly. But if we now surround the 5 with four other numbers, such as 3's, then you can no longer identify it. It looks out of focus. Volunteers who perceive normally are no more successful at identifying this number than mere chance. That is not because things get fuzzy in the periphery of vision. After all, you could see the 5 perfectly clearly when it wasn't surrounded by 3's. You cannot identify it now because of limited attentional resources. The flanking 3's somehow distract your attention away from the central 5 and prevent you from seeing it.

A big surprise came when we gave the same test to two synesthetes. They looked at the display and made remarks like, "I cannot see the middle number. It's fuzzy but it looks red, so I guess it must be a 5." Even though the middle number did not consciously register, it seems that the brain was nonetheless processing it somewhere. Synesthetes could then use this color to deduce intellectually what the number was. If our theory is right, this finding implies that the number is processed in the fusiform gyrus and evokes the appropriate color before the stage at which the crowding effect occurs in the brain; paradoxically, the result is that even an "invisible" number can produce synesthesia.

Another finding we made also supports this conclusion. When we reduced the contrast between the number and the background, the synesthetic color became weaker until, at low contrast, subjects saw no color at all, even though the number was perfectly visible. Whereas the crowding experiment shows that an invisible number can elicit color, the contrast experiment conversely indicates that viewing a number does not guarantee seeing a color. Perhaps low-contrast numbers activate cells in the fusiform adequately for conscious perception of the number but not enough to cross-activate the color cells in V4.

Finally, we found that if we showed synesthetes Roman numerals, a V, say, they saw no color--which suggests that it is not the numerical concept of a number, in this case 5, but the grapheme's visual appearance that drives the color. This observation, too, implicates cross activation within the fusiform gyrus itself in number-color synesthesia, because that structure is mainly involved in analyzing the visual shape, not the high-level meaning of the number. One intriguing twist: Imagine an image with a large 5 made up of little 3's; you can see either the "forest" (the 5) or focus minutely on the "trees" (the 3's). Two synesthete subjects reported that they saw the color switch, depending on their focus. This test implies that even though synesthesia can arise as a result of the visual appearance alone--not the high-level concept--the manner in which the visual input is categorized, based on attention, is also critical.

But as we began to recruit other volunteers, it soon became obvious that not all synesthetes who colorize their world are alike. In some, even days of the week or months of the year elicit colors. Monday might be green, Wednesday pink, and December yellow.

The only thing that days of the week, months and numbers have in common is the concept of numerical sequence, or ordinality. For certain synesthetes, perhaps it is the abstract concept of numerical sequence that drives the color, rather than the visual appearance of the number. Could it be that in these individuals, the cross wiring occurs between the angular gyrus and the higher color area near the TPO instead of between areas in the fusiform? If so, that interaction would explain why even abstract number representations, or the idea of the numbers elicited by days of the week or months, will strongly evoke specific colors. In other words, depending on where in the brain the mutant gene is expressed, it can result in different types of the condition--"higher" synesthesia, driven by numerical concept, or "lower" synesthesia, produced by visual appearance alone. Similarly, in some lower forms, the visual appearance of a letter might generate color, whereas in higher forms it is the sound, or phoneme, summoned by that letter; phonemes are represented near the TPO.

We also observed one case in which we believe cross activation enables a colorblind synesthete to see numbers tinged with hues he otherwise cannot perceive; charmingly, he refers to these as "Martian colors." Although his retinal color receptors cannot process certain wavelengths, we suggest that his brain color area is working just fine and being cross-activated when he sees numbers.

In brain-imaging experiments we are conducting with Geoff Boynton of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, we have obtained preliminary evidence of local activation of the color area V4 in a manner predicted by our cross-activation theory of synesthesia. (Jeffrey Gray of the Institute of Psychiatry in London and his colleagues have reported similar results.) On presenting black and white numbers to synesthetes, brain activation arose not only in the number area--as it would in normal subjects--but also in the color area. Our group also observed differences between types of synesthetes. One of our subjects with lower synesthesia showed much greater activation in earlier stages of color processing than occurred in controls. In contrast, higher synesthetes show less activation at these earlier levels.

A Way with Metaphor
Our insights into the neurological basis of synesthesia could help explain some of the creativity of painters, poets and novelists. According to one study, the condition is seven times as common in creative people as in the general population.

One skill that many creative people share is a facility for using metaphor ("It is the east, and Juliet is the sun"). It is as if their brains are set up to make links between seemingly unrelated domains--such as the sun and a beautiful young woman. In other words, just as synesthesia involves making arbitrary links between seemingly unrelated perceptual entities such as colors and numbers, metaphor involves making links between seemingly unrelated conceptual realms. Perhaps this is not just a coincidence.

Numerous high-level concepts are probably anchored in specific brain regions, or maps. If you think about it, there is nothing more abstract than a number, and yet it is represented, as we have seen, in a relatively small brain region, the angular gyrus. Let us say that the mutation we believe brings about synesthesia causes excess communication among different brain maps--small patches of cortex that represent specific perceptual entities, such as sharpness or curviness of shapes or, in the case of color maps, hues. Depending on where and how widely in the brain the trait was expressed, it could lead to both synesthesia and to a propensity toward linking seemingly unrelated concepts and ideas--in short, creativity. This would explain why the apparently useless synesthesia gene has survived in the population.

In addition to clarifying why artists might be prone to experiencing synesthesia, our research suggests that we all have some capacity for it and that this trait may have set the stage for the evolution of abstraction--an ability at which humans excel. The TPO (and the angular gyrus within it), which plays a part in the condition, is normally involved in cross-modal synthesis. It is the brain region where information from touch, hearing and vision is thought to flow together to enable the construction of high-level perceptions. For example, a cat is fluffy (touch), it meows and purrs (hearing), it has a certain appearance (vision) and odor (smell), all of which are derived simultaneously by the memory of a cat or the sound of the word "cat."

Could it be that the angular gyrus--which is disproportionately larger in humans compared with that in apes and monkeys--evolved originally for cross-modal associations but then became co-opted for other, more abstract functions such as metaphors? Consider two drawings, originally designed by psychologist Wolfgang Köhler. One looks like an inkblot and the other, a jagged piece of shattered glass. When we ask, "Which of these is a 'bouba,' and which is a 'kiki'?" 98 percent of people pick the inkblot as a bouba and the other one as a kiki. Perhaps that is because the gentle curves of the amoebalike figure metaphorically mimic the gentle undulations of the sound "bouba" as represented in the hearing centers in the brain as well as the gradual inflection of the lips as they produce the curved "boo-baa" sound. In contrast, the waveform of the sound "kiki" and the sharp inflection of the tongue on the palate mimic the sudden changes in the jagged visual shape. The only thing these two kiki features have in common is the abstract property of jaggedness that is extracted somewhere in the vicinity of the TPO, probably in the angular gyrus. (We recently found that people with damage to the angular gyrus lose the bouba-kiki effect--they cannot match the shape with the correct sound.) In a sense, perhaps we are all closet synesthetes.

So the angular gyrus performs a very elementary type of abstraction--extracting the common denominator from a set of strikingly dissimilar entities. We do not know how exactly it does this job. But once the ability to engage in cross-modal abstraction emerged, it might have paved the way for the more complex types of abstraction. The opportunistic takeover of one function for a different one is common in evolution. For example, bones in the ear used for hearing in mammals evolved from the back of the jawbone in reptiles. Beyond metaphor and abstract thinking, cross-modal abstraction might even have provided seeds for language [see sidebar].

When we began our research on synesthesia, we had no inkling of where it would take us. Little did we suspect that this eerie phenomenon, long regarded as a mere curiosity, might offer a window into the nature of thought.


VILAYANUR S. RAMACHANDRAN AND EDWARD M. HUBBARD collaborate on studies of synesthesia. Ramachandran directs the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California at San Diego and is adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He trained as a physician and later obtained a Ph.D. from Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He has received a fellowship from All Souls College, University of Oxford, the Ariens Kappers Gold Medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy, and the plenary lecture award from the American Academy of Neurology. He gave the BBC Reith Lectures for 2003. This is his fourth article for Scientific American. Hubbard is a fourth-year graduate student in the departments of psychology and cognitive science at U.C.S.D. His research combines psychophysics and functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore the neural basis of multisensory phenomena. A founding member of the American Synesthesia Association, he helped to organize its second annual meeting at U.C.S.D. in 2001.



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: body; brain; color; face; fact; fingers; human; medicine; sciences; sense; thought; understanding
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Cool. I can see some pretty amazing designer recreational drugs or medicines that can help with those with learning disiabilities.
1 posted on 04/14/2003 6:28:48 PM PDT by vannrox
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2 posted on 04/14/2003 6:30:35 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: vannrox
an artifact of drug use (LSD and mescaline can produce similar effects)

Damn! How come I never found the good stuff that did that?!?!;-)

3 posted on 04/14/2003 6:35:18 PM PDT by StriperSniper (Frogs are for gigging)
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To: StriperSniper
ooooh, thanks for posting this. I don't read Scientific America, but I do have this condition!
4 posted on 04/14/2003 6:40:03 PM PDT by Herodotus
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To: Herodotus; vannrox
ooooh, thanks for posting this.

Thank vannrox, I didn't post it.

but I do have this condition!

Well, since you seem excited and not depressed about it, I'll say - Is there ANYTHING that can be discussed here that somebody hasn't done or have?

;-)

5 posted on 04/14/2003 6:44:14 PM PDT by StriperSniper (Frogs are for gigging)
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To: vannrox
disabilaties? I like it!
6 posted on 04/14/2003 6:44:41 PM PDT by Walnut
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To: vannrox
Bump to read later.
7 posted on 04/14/2003 6:49:14 PM PDT by Celtjew Libertarian (No more will we pretend that our desire/For liberty is number-cold and has no fire.)
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To: vannrox
I did have synesthesia a few times in the 70s but I don't do acid anymore.
8 posted on 04/14/2003 6:50:09 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Walnut
.

"... Consider two drawings, originally designed by psychologist Wolfgang Köhler. One looks like an inkblot and the other, a jagged piece of shattered glass.

When we ask, "Which of these is a 'bouba,' and which is a 'kiki'?" 98 percent of people pick the inkblot as a bouba and the other one as a kiki. Perhaps that is because the gentle curves of the amoebalike figure metaphorically mimic the gentle undulations of the sound "bouba" as represented in the hearing centers in the brain as well as the gradual inflection of the lips as they produce the curved "boo-baa" sound.

In contrast, the waveform of the sound "kiki" and the sharp inflection of the tongue on the palate mimic the sudden changes in the jagged visual shape. The only thing these two kiki features have in common is the abstract property of jaggedness that is extracted somewhere in the vicinity of the TPO, probably in the angular gyrus.

(We recently found that people with damage to the angular gyrus lose the bouba-kiki effect--they cannot match the shape with the correct sound.) In a sense, perhaps we are all closet synesthetes. ..."


.
9 posted on 04/14/2003 6:51:40 PM PDT by vannrox (The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
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To: vannrox
But most have brushed it aside as fakery, an artifact of drug use (LSD and mescaline can produce similar effects) or a mere curiosity.

I remember being able to taste colors and see sounds when I was on LSD. I really thought it was fascinating at the time.

I also had some very radical spiritual and rather disturbing demonic experiences while taking these drugs.

Acid, mescaline, mushrooms etc. started to cause hallucinations that took years to go away after I stopped taking these things.

10 posted on 04/14/2003 6:52:27 PM PDT by Jorge
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To: vannrox
Go to this link, scroll down page, click "Listen" button to hear interview.

"Patricia Lynne Duffy explains the neurological phenomenon of synesthesia, an actual crossing of the senses, and its link to some of the world’s most famous artists, Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens":
http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/02072003
11 posted on 04/14/2003 6:53:42 PM PDT by Age of Reason
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To: vannrox
very interesting.
12 posted on 04/14/2003 6:55:42 PM PDT by cynicom
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To: vannrox
I can remember exactly when I first heard the word "synesthesia." I was ten years old, and had come back from seeing "How the West Was Won"--which was in true, three-camera Cinerama. I told my brother how, near the end, the entire theater felt as though it tilted and rotated, during an overhead shot of the Los Angeles freeways. He said, "That's call 'synesthesia.'"
13 posted on 04/14/2003 6:56:33 PM PDT by Arthur McGowan
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To: vannrox
I should have said, "I felt as though the entire theater tilted and rotated." I don't know how the theater itself felt.
14 posted on 04/14/2003 6:57:53 PM PDT by Arthur McGowan
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To: vannrox
thats very interesting. I would have picked bouba to inkblot because of the sound of blot and bou as they relate to each other. they sounded alike to me. sort of
15 posted on 04/14/2003 7:02:59 PM PDT by Walnut
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To: Billthedrill; dighton; general_re; Poohbah; babylonian
People with synesthesia--whose senses blend together--are providing valuable clues to understanding the organization and functions of the human brain

"It's a mix between Kentucky Bluegrass and Northern California sensimila. The great thing about this is you can play 36 holes on it and then get smoked to the bejeesus with it."
--Carl Spackler


16 posted on 04/14/2003 7:06:28 PM PDT by Thinkin' Gal (| 8^)
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To: vannrox
Bump to finish reading tomorrow.

chicken tastes "pointy"--

Everything I have eaten for the last week feels pointy anyway. Last night I even dreamed I was eating thumbtacks.

17 posted on 04/14/2003 7:08:39 PM PDT by muggs
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To: vannrox; Herodotus
There is an incredibly interesting book on this subject: The Mind of a Mnemonist by Aleksandr R. Luria. This book is actually about a man with an almost infinite memory who was a patient of Luria, a Russian psychologist, over a period of many years. It becomes clear that the source of his powerful memory are the strong associations formed by synesthesia involving all his senses. A more recent book that is also good: The Man Who Tasted Shapes by Richard E. Cytowic.
18 posted on 04/14/2003 7:09:20 PM PDT by wideminded
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To: wideminded
sweeet! added to my file. I'd always wondered what the deal was with my seeing colors for numbers. It became a part of how i think about things in doing research, and how I'm able to associate the parts of my analysis together.
19 posted on 04/14/2003 7:11:12 PM PDT by Herodotus
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To: Thinkin' Gal
To be honest, I would have to classify my dabbling in psychotropic substances as overall a positive experience - for one thing, it made me aware of what sanity is, and why it just wasn't for me...
20 posted on 04/14/2003 7:11:29 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: vannrox
Interesting article. One of the magazine shows (dateline or 60 minutes?) did a segment on synesthesia last year, and it was fascinating. One fellow tasted many, many words. I remember he said "New York" tasted like runny eggs, something else tasted like Spam. But the real kicker was that he had to break up with his girlfriend Tracy because her name tasted like flaky pastry and it was way too strong for him.
21 posted on 04/14/2003 7:12:16 PM PDT by TrexDogs
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To: vannrox
Like I said earlier, I haven't read the whole article yet so maybe this was answered, do these people experience this their entire life or just during certain periods? It seems like I experienced something like this during pregnancy. I could feel certain things in color at times. It was quite a strange thing.
22 posted on 04/14/2003 7:15:03 PM PDT by muggs
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To: Herodotus
The physicist Richard Feynman also described how he recalled equations with the various letters and symbols assuming different colors.
23 posted on 04/14/2003 7:16:28 PM PDT by wideminded
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To: vannrox; All
Anyone interested in this post should read Sensory Inhibition, which describes a lot of similiar weirdness. In particular, I remember something about experiments where the taste buds on the tongue were inhibited in a certain manner (along a half-plane?), producing a sensation of the taste coming from a distant point in space.
24 posted on 04/14/2003 7:34:20 PM PDT by KayEyeDoubleDee (const vector<tag>& theTags)
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To: vannrox
bump this:

Must there be all the colors-uh

Without names, without sound, baby?

25 posted on 04/14/2003 7:46:03 PM PDT by facedown (Armed in the Heartland)
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To: vannrox
bump for later reader
26 posted on 04/14/2003 8:02:37 PM PDT by longtermmemmory
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To: longtermmemmory
another bflr
27 posted on 04/14/2003 8:17:39 PM PDT by ladyjane
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To: vannrox
I thought your comment at the end was delicious. Tasted just like chicken.
28 posted on 04/14/2003 8:28:22 PM PDT by Hank Rearden (Dick Gephardt. Before he dicks you.)
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To: vannrox
I don't remember the synesthesia (did they look like the Fantasia ones?) sheets, but I remember watching the music notes come out of George Harrison's guitar. That was pretty cool, and they tasted blue...
29 posted on 04/14/2003 8:32:34 PM PDT by thatdewd (When catapults are outlawed, only outlaws will have catapults.)
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To: Herodotus
I have colors for numbers and letters, and tastes for a lot of colors. I always thought it was just an oddity of mine till I met another one of "us" at a conference in Denmark. This woman said something like, "For me, 3 is pink" and I almost jumped out of my chair. I pounced on her at lunch and made her tell me all about it. There is nothing quite like finding another synaesthesic and realizing you're not a freak.

But it was weird how different our colors were and how visceral were our emotions about those colors. I remember saying "3, pink? No, no!! 3 is so obviously BLUE!! 3 is ALWAYS blue!" It's 5 that's pink (and is very sweet and tart with V or 7... just look at this: 31V5J706... my God, doesn't it just make your mouth water? Like strawberry orange blueberry SweetTarts only juicy and wet!!

30 posted on 04/14/2003 11:31:27 PM PDT by Anamensis (New axis of evil: Syria, Iran, Hollywood)
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To: vannrox
I must have some form of this ...

When I see most liberals they look red.

31 posted on 04/14/2003 11:38:19 PM PDT by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge.)
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To: vannrox
I tasted a purple spotlight at a Black Sabbath concert in 1978.
32 posted on 04/14/2003 11:47:44 PM PDT by spodefly (This is my tag line. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: Billthedrill
Psilocyban mushrooms could produce definite spacial distortions.
33 posted on 04/15/2003 12:39:54 AM PDT by capitan_refugio
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To: vannrox
bump
34 posted on 04/15/2003 12:45:45 AM PDT by Centurion2000 (We are crushing our enemies, seeing him driven before us and hearing the lamentations of the liberal)
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To: Anamensis
I first heard of this a couple of years ago, and was astounded to find that other people saw colors in letters and numbers like I do. I have tried for years to explain this to my husband, who always just gives me that patronizing look and changes the subject.

BTW, 4 is red, F is yellow, L is brown.

35 posted on 04/15/2003 12:51:44 AM PDT by RightField (the older you get ..... the older "old" is ......)
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To: vannrox

"Listen to the sound of purple and green and taste a moment of madness!" - Ad slogan for AIP's Roger Corman helmed Psych-Out (similar to his other Peter Fonda acid movie, The Trip).

36 posted on 04/15/2003 1:18:59 AM PDT by weegee (NO BLOOD FOR RATINGS: CNN let human beings be tortured and killed to keep their Baghdad bureau open)
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To: vannrox
I'll post to come back to this thread later (for a full read of the article) but I'd expect that this ties into the neumonic devices people use in remembering things (there are all sorts of associations made in the mind, it's understandable that some of them could cross over senses).
37 posted on 04/15/2003 1:21:29 AM PDT by weegee (NO BLOOD FOR RATINGS: CNN let human beings be tortured and killed to keep their Baghdad bureau open)
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To: RightField
Maybe some people associate colors and numbers from years of painting Paint By Numbers as kids.
38 posted on 04/15/2003 1:22:21 AM PDT by weegee (NO BLOOD FOR RATINGS: CNN let human beings be tortured and killed to keep their Baghdad bureau open)
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To: vannrox
Ozzy sang "Swallowing colors of the sound I feel" but that was about drug use.
39 posted on 04/15/2003 1:30:32 AM PDT by Unassuaged
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To: vannrox
Synesthesia is one of the coolest things to read about. There are some nice descriptions in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales by Dr. Oliver Sacks.
40 posted on 04/15/2003 1:37:59 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: blam; Registered
BUMP!
41 posted on 04/15/2003 1:41:03 AM PDT by Cool Guy (In God We Trust.)
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To: vannrox
This article smells good. But not as good as it tastes.
42 posted on 04/15/2003 1:56:58 AM PDT by Tom_Busch
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To: vannrox
Esmerelda Jones (a pseudonym) sees blue when she listens to the note C sharp played on the piano; other notes evoke different hues--so much so that the piano keys are actually color-coded, making it easier for her to remember and play musical scales.

I have always seen colors with certain numbers, been this way since first grade, and now I am in my 50s.

1 white
2 yellow
3 pink
4 orange
5 red
6 blue
7 green
8 brown
9 black
10 gray and white
11 gray
12 etc etc etc

Until now I thought I was ALONE in this phenomena....
Good to know I am not the only crazy one!
43 posted on 04/15/2003 6:37:40 AM PDT by buffyt (Freedom is worth fighting for! America, Land of the Free! Home of the Brave!)
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To: buffyt
BTW refrigerator magnets had not been invented yet when I was 6.
44 posted on 04/15/2003 6:38:46 AM PDT by buffyt (Freedom is worth fighting for! America, Land of the Free! Home of the Brave!)
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To: All
"We wondered what would happen if we showed the mixed numbers to synesthetes who experience, for instance, red when they see a 5 and green with a 2."

FIVE IS RED!!!!!


45 posted on 04/15/2003 6:41:38 AM PDT by buffyt (Freedom is worth fighting for! America, Land of the Free! Home of the Brave!)
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To: Arthur McGowan
Probably better than the one in Kuwait.
46 posted on 04/15/2003 6:42:02 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: StriperSniper
I read the whole thing twice and agree with

Although we initially thought in terms of physical cross wiring, we have come to realize that the same effect could occur if the wiring--the number of connections between regions--was fine but the balance of chemicals traveling between regions was skewed. So we now speak in terms of cross activation. For instance, neighboring brain regions often inhibit one another's activity, which serves to minimize cross talk. A chemical imbalance of some kind that reduces such inhibition--for example, by blocking the action of an inhibitory neurotransmitter or failing to produce an inhibitor--would also cause activity in one area to elicit activity in a neighbor. Such cross activation could, in theory, also occur between widely separated areas, which would account for some of the less common forms of synesthesia.

I didn't know there was a name for it, synesthesia, and I have NEVER met anyone else who had it besides me. I agree also that there are no colors for Roman Numerals. Also no colors for letters. Just numbers, and mainly I see colors for numbers 1 - 9. This is FUN. Thanks for posting it. Now I have a name for my strange condition! LOL
47 posted on 04/15/2003 6:47:17 AM PDT by buffyt (Freedom is worth fighting for! America, Land of the Free! Home of the Brave!)
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To: weegee
Nope, I had the color association before I had paints.
48 posted on 04/15/2003 6:48:20 AM PDT by buffyt (Freedom is worth fighting for! America, Land of the Free! Home of the Brave!)
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To: Age of Reason
Patricia Lynne Duffy

Maybe artists really do see the world differently. Patricia Lynne Duffy explains the neurological phenomenon of synesthesia, an actual crossing of the senses, and its link to some of the world’s most famous artists, Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens. For more information about synethesia, visit www.bluecats.info

Well, I DO have a degree in art. Maybe it is artsy people who have this "condition".


49 posted on 04/15/2003 6:52:12 AM PDT by buffyt (What did the art major say to the engineering major? Want fries with that????)
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To: vannrox
Don't know if it is the same process as described here, but if i'm in a quiet, pitch-black room, and hear a loud noise, I will "see it" as well as hear it. It's usually a quick bright light like a camera flashbulb for a high pitched noise such as an alarm clock and a purple, red flash similar to fireworks for low pitched noises such as thunder.
50 posted on 04/15/2003 6:54:14 AM PDT by apillar
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