February 23, 2012 5 Comments
Synesthesia is an involuntary joining in which the real information of one sense is accompanied by a perception in another sense.
In addition to being involuntary, this additional perception is regarded by the synesthete as real, often outside the body, instead of imagined in the mind’s eye. It also has some other interesting features that clearly separate it from artistic fancy or purple prose.
Its reality and vividness are what make synesthesia so interesting in its violation of conventional perception. Synesthesia is also fascinating because logically it should not be a product of the human brain, where the evolutionary trend has been for increasing separation of function anatomically.
Common experiences with synesthesia include perceiving colors in numbers, letters, and also when hearing sounds. A synesthetic alphabet for these individuals has a color associated with each letter. Colors of each letter vary for each individual.
True neurological synesthesia is involuntary meaning people affected by this phenomenon have no control over it.
Estimates say that synesthesia could possibly be as prevalent as 1 in 23 persons across its range of variants. Synesthesia runs strongly in families, but the precise mode of inheritance has yet to be ascertained.
Synesthesia is also sometimes reported by individuals under the influence of psychedelic drugs, after a stroke, during a temporal lobe epileptic seizure, or as a result of blindness or deafness.
Psychological research has demonstrated that synesthetic experiences can have measurable behavioral consequences, while functional neuroimaging studies have identified differences in patterns of brain activation.
Many people with synesthesia use their experiences to aid in their creative process, and many non-synesthetes have attempted to create works of art that may capture what it is like to experience synesthesia.
Synesthetes often report that they were unaware their experiences were unusual until they realized other people did not have them, while others report feeling as if they had been keeping a secret their entire lives, as has been documented in interviews with synesthetes on how they discovered synesthesia in their childhood.
Synesthetes are likely to participate in creative activities.
Individual development of perceptual and cognitive skills, and one’s cultural environment likely determine the variety in awareness and practical use of synesthetic skills.
These are major topics of ongoing research.