snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Science

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07 February 2007, 07:54 PM
Buckle Up's Avatar
Buckle Up Buckle Up is offline
 
Join Date: 23 October 2006
Location: New Mexico
Posts: 6,163
Icon106 Another unusual brain disorder - synesthesia

Today we've been talking about face blindness (thread), and it reminded me of a recent "Medical Mysteries" show that discussed synesthesia, a condition where two or more senses are "combined," where people can "see" sounds, hear colors, etc. Certain sounds gave off a foul odor for some people, but they all (in the video) said they could not imagine life without this "problem" and were glad they had it.

I can't find the link to the video but here's the Wikipedia article on it.

I had a theory that maybe some child prodigies like W.A. Mozart might have had this and that's why a) he could write such amazing beautiful music and b) everyone thought he was insane.

What thinkest thou?

Last edited by Buckle Up; 07 February 2007 at 08:06 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 07 February 2007, 07:59 PM
Sara@home's Avatar
Sara@home Sara@home is offline
 
Join Date: 18 March 2004
Location: Reading, PA
Posts: 12,468
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckleupp View Post
Today we've been talking about face blindness (thread), and it reminded me of a recent "Medical Mysteries" show that discussed synesthesia, a condition where two or more senses are "combined," where people can "see" sounds, hear colors, etc. Certain sounds gave off a foul odor for some people, but they all (in the video) said they could not imagine life without this "problem" and were glad they had it.

I can't find the link to the video but here's the Wikipedia article on it.

I had a theory that maybe some child prodigies like W.A. Mozart might have had this and that's why a) he could write such amazing beautiful music and b) everyone thought he was insane.

What thinkest thou?
There's a thread on face blindness? (The "thread" link is the Synesthesia one.) I have a mild case of that.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07 February 2007, 08:06 PM
Buckle Up's Avatar
Buckle Up Buckle Up is offline
 
Join Date: 23 October 2006
Location: New Mexico
Posts: 6,163
Default

Sorry about that, I corrected the thread.

Would you be willing to tell me more about your experience with it, either here or on PM?
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07 February 2007, 08:24 PM
Sara@home's Avatar
Sara@home Sara@home is offline
 
Join Date: 18 March 2004
Location: Reading, PA
Posts: 12,468
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buckleupp View Post
Sorry about that, I corrected the thread.

Would you be willing to tell me more about your experience with it, either here or on PM?
I posted on the other thread.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07 February 2007, 08:42 PM
matches
 
Posts: n/a
Crash I remember an article

On this several years ago. (how many years ago? I read it on a Prodigy related website).

The theory at the time was this disorder was caused by a lack of blood to a certain part of the brain. Essentially, the idea was that for every sensation we all receive a wide range of information, but that for most of us, our brains filter out the smells associated with touch because they are irrelivant.

In some people however, (due to this low blood flow) the brain is filtering poorly and routinely lets information into our conciousness that is superfluous to the experience.

What I find interesting in this disorder is how often, rather than sounds (i.e. certain tones trigger certain olfactory or occular responses) the expereince is related to words (a word, or commonly a name will trigger a flash or a tase regardless of how its said or who says it).

That would imply the idsorder occurs in the part of the brain associated with identifying information as opposed to simply receiving information.

Any way, it's really interesting. I don't really have this issue, though I am prone to seeing lights and flashes for no particular reason, so I guess it is possible that my mind is giving me occular images for other sensations, but that the other sensations (say like the temperature of the room) are so subtle I don't notice what is causing them.

Incidently I also suffer from the facial blindness issue, so perhaps they are related.

As a note, I fell out of a tree 40 feet onto my head when I was in Junior High, Although none of these problems expressly first surfaced afterwards, I became far more aware of them.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07 February 2007, 09:00 PM
FloridaGirl
 
Posts: n/a
Default

I have a friend who has synesthesia.

It's really quite fascinating to hear how he describes things. Apparently, I'm orange and taste like silver. If he sees red cubes, that's a very bad thing. Blue cubes on the other hand are very good. Not everything has something else associated with it. My dad didn't have a color for a very long time. I think my dad is grey now. I think that his mother doesn't have a color at all and his brother is blue. The things is, blue to him does not mean blue like the sky. He says it's impossible to describe all the colors that he sees because they are not "crayon colors." What we might call white with purple polka dots would be a color to him. A single color. White and purple polka dots is a color to him as orange would be to us. Apparently, my color orange is not the "normal" orange. Numbers are bad. He hates looking at things with numbers - it makes him very anxious. He can never pass math, and I doubt he ever will. Some letters have distinct personalities and colors as well. Some letters or words have tastes.

I love hearing about how he sees the world (I would give anything to see his way for a day!). He cannot imagine the world without synesthesia. It would be like us losing our sight or our ears.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07 February 2007, 09:24 PM
Artemis's Avatar
Artemis Artemis is offline
 
Join Date: 08 October 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 6,891
Default

I've always felt that certain letters have different colors. Not so much tastes. (Although I just feel like the letter C should be very cold and very lemony. And of course yellow.) I'm not sure if it's synesthesia or just a fun little quirk.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07 February 2007, 09:35 PM
CSGirl's Avatar
CSGirl CSGirl is offline
 
Join Date: 20 June 2006
Location: Brockton, MA
Posts: 10,243
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by FloridaGirl View Post
I have a friend who has synesthesia.

It's really quite fascinating to hear how he describes things. Apparently, I'm orange and taste like silver. If he sees red cubes, that's a very bad thing. Blue cubes on the other hand are very good. Not everything has something else associated with it. My dad didn't have a color for a very long time. I think my dad is grey now. I think that his mother doesn't have a color at all and his brother is blue. The things is, blue to him does not mean blue like the sky. He says it's impossible to describe all the colors that he sees because they are not "crayon colors." What we might call white with purple polka dots would be a color to him. A single color. White and purple polka dots is a color to him as orange would be to us. Apparently, my color orange is not the "normal" orange. Numbers are bad. He hates looking at things with numbers - it makes him very anxious. He can never pass math, and I doubt he ever will. Some letters have distinct personalities and colors as well. Some letters or words have tastes.

I love hearing about how he sees the world (I would give anything to see his way for a day!). He cannot imagine the world without synesthesia. It would be like us losing our sight or our ears.
That is fascinating. I've heard from other people (mostly online) that have a mild form- letters/numbers have colors, etc., but have never heard it described in detail like that before.

Actually, the first time I ever heard of synesthesia was at a coffeehouse here at school. The girl singing was doing a sound check, and wanted her guitar more "orange"- then apologized, saying she had recently been diagnosed with synesthesia, and had begun to realize that not everyone experienced things the same way as her, and that they didn't understand her when she said things like that.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07 February 2007, 09:45 PM
FloridaGirl
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by CSGirl View Post
That is fascinating. I've heard from other people (mostly online) that have a mild form- letters/numbers have colors, etc., but have never heard it described in detail like that before.
That's how I've always looked at it. He's quite secretive about it. I feel sorta guilty for telling you all, but I have a lot of friends and no one here knows me in real life. Apparently, I am one of the few people who doesn't think of him as a freak for it.

Oh, I can't even start on how he "sees" music. That is fascinating. The shapes, colors, tastes, and personification that takes place is amazing.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07 February 2007, 09:49 PM
CSGirl's Avatar
CSGirl CSGirl is offline
 
Join Date: 20 June 2006
Location: Brockton, MA
Posts: 10,243
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by FloridaGirl View Post
Apparently, I am one of the few people who doesn't think of him as a freak for it.
That's sad. I give him a ton of credit just being able to function- I can't even imagine the sensory overload. It must be amazing to experience the world like that, though.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 07 February 2007, 09:50 PM
Seaboe Muffinchucker's Avatar
Seaboe Muffinchucker Seaboe Muffinchucker is offline
 
Join Date: 30 June 2005
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 18,804
Glasses

I don't know that I'd say I have synesthesia, since it only applies to one thing, but saxophones sound like ice cream. Always have, always will.

Seaboe
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 07 February 2007, 10:26 PM
FloridaGirl
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
I don't know that I'd say I have synesthesia, since it only applies to one thing, but saxophones sound like ice cream. Always have, always will.

Seaboe
I associate Switzerland with green. When I was learning geography, Switzerland was green on the map. Then, when I got to history, neutral countries were green. Thus, it's green. I think things like that are more of an association, but my friend claims that "most people have some form of synesthesia." I've seen sites that say this as well, but I don't know how credible that is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CSGirl View Post
That's sad. I give him a ton of credit just being able to function- I can't even imagine the sensory overload. It must be amazing to experience the world like that, though.
He handles it quite well. He's very intelligent, he just can't do math. He knows several languages fluently, and many more conversationally (12ish I think). You'd never know unless he told you. Like I said, to him, it's another sense. Imagine not being able to hear or feel or taste or smell or see. That is how he would feel without his synesthesia. He's had it is whole life. If I recall correctly, he's interested in what the world would be like if he didn't have it, but I don't think he'd want to stay that way.

I really want to switch places with him for a day! It would be perfect.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08 February 2007, 07:25 PM
Elwood's Avatar
Elwood Elwood is offline
 
Join Date: 28 February 2003
Location: Fairmont, WV
Posts: 3,832
Default

I recently read an article by a sound engineer ranting about requests from musicians. One quote that stood out was "there is no knob to make it sound more round, more blue or any other shape or color." I laughed because in my mind's ear I have an idea of what I would adjust to meet those suggestions. I don't think I hear colors or shapes per se, but relate the qualities of colors to aspects of sounds.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 11 February 2007, 04:42 AM
Seburiel's Avatar
Seburiel Seburiel is offline
 
Join Date: 13 July 2005
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 657
Default

[slight hijack here]
I'm not sure what this is called, but I have a total inability to understand things like ink-blot tests, and really abstract ensignage. Unless there are definite symbols involved, which have been explained to me, or which I can fathom through contextual clues, I am totally at a loss, which 'really interested' a psychiatrist I was seeing for an unrelated issue.
Does anyone know if this is an actual diagnosis of some variety, or just a mental problem of my own?
[/hijack]

I can't imagine Synesthesia, though I may have the face-blindess, at least to a degree. One of my biggest problems is being able to sort out people in a crowded place, especially if it's noisy (seems less so when it's quiet, such as a movie theater, library, or somesuch), but put me in the middle of the Shopping Mall, and I will get lost very quickly trying to recognise faces.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 20 March 2007, 07:13 AM
Poached Octopus's Avatar
Poached Octopus Poached Octopus is offline
 
Join Date: 20 May 2006
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 31
Default

In today's lecture on substance abuse I noticed synaesthesia listed among the effects of hallucinogenic drugs such as mescaline, ecstacy and LSD. Having limited knowlegde of recreational drugs or synaesthesia I was a little suprised and fascinated and wonder just how similar being on drugs and having the legitimate disorder actually is.

Maybe Snopesters who have had experience with these drugs would like to own up in the name of science ?
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 20 March 2007, 08:32 AM
llewtrah's Avatar
llewtrah llewtrah is offline
 
Join Date: 13 December 2001
Location: Chelmsford, UK
Posts: 16,363
Default

A while back I read various books on how the brain organises itself which suggested that during brain organisation, neurons for the auditory function might get misrouted to the visual function area of the brain or vice versa. When a certain frequency of sound is played, the misrouted neurons "hear" it, but the brain interprets it as a colour because the neuron has routed itself to the visual function not the auditory area. Because there are many neurons, some are wired correctly so the person both hears and "sees" the sound.

Many years ago (1970s) the Readers Digest carried an article about someone who inadvertantly trained his child to see numbers as colours. When teaching her to read numbers, the book used showed ech number in a different colour e.g. 1 was always yellow, 2 was always red. The child associated the colour, not the shape, with the number. The parent ended up colouring all the numbers black, but it took a lot of effort for the child to unlearn the colour-number connection. When she saw a red car she said "two" for example.

In one of the letters pages of the Readers Digest there was a discussion about sounds and colours. A classical music comment referring to "the yellow scream of the brass section" lead readers to write in with their own sound-colour metaphors, including one from a person who had described colours to her blind friend in terms of music.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 20 March 2007, 12:01 PM
Jonny T
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poached Octopus View Post
In today's lecture on substance abuse I noticed synaesthesia listed among the effects of hallucinogenic drugs such as mescaline, ecstacy and LSD. Having limited knowlegde of recreational drugs or synaesthesia I was a little suprised and fascinated and wonder just how similar being on drugs and having the legitimate disorder actually is.

Maybe Snopesters who have had experience with these drugs would like to own up in the name of science ?
I've taken Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds (which contain Ergine, chemically related to LSD) twice and both times I had a form of synaesthesia. One of the main effects is increased sensual appreciation, in particular (at least in my case) touch and sound. Laying down and listening to music I found I was able to "see" it - it formed an infinite tunnel through a black background (which seemed like space) with fractal images rotating in time to the music. The tunnel's path seemed to follow the music too. The nearest real-world comparison I can think of is the long, twisting tubes slides you get at swimming pools - it was like floating through one of those in the middle of space, and it would change as the music progressed (so a long single note would direct my path forward and straight, more jagged guitar bits send me moving from side to side, etc.)

I also found myself immersed in mathematics....in the sense of I could "feel" my mind in a cloud and when I "moved" (bearing in mind I was physically lying down at this point) it was in the form of going from one value to another. so I could start at 3 and move forward and slightly right to end up at 14.

It's hard to explain this properly but it made perfect sense at the time.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 25 March 2007, 10:50 AM
BamaRainbow BamaRainbow is offline
 
Join Date: 09 May 2006
Location: Montgomery, AL
Posts: 960
Default

I believe I once read somewhere that Barbra Streisand has described herself as being synesthetic, specifically that music and color interconnect. I don't recall anything more specific, like G-sharp is turquoise or E-flat is bright red, but that was the first time I'd ever heard or read the word "synesthesia".
I always thought it would be so cool in its own way. (Though I'm not so sure how fun it would be to eat an apple and get a sensation of "brown" or to listen to U2 and get a sensation of "potato chips".)
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 25 March 2007, 11:09 AM
Tisiphone Tisiphone is offline
 
Join Date: 29 December 2006
Location: Durham, UK
Posts: 340
Default

I wouldn't like it. I think sound is far to strong all by itself (if there are too many people talking I'm likely to freak out, if someone is yelling I'm likely to, if there is TV noise or fan noise then I'm unlikely to be happy. Some people's talking is like being pawed by a sticky grey smoke. /shudder)

The first time I heard about it was in a book on memory, someone could apparently remember everything but faces in part because he had this disorder and so everything seemed so striking to him that it was easier to remember.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 14 January 2008, 11:32 PM
The Nanny
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Sorry to be dragging this thread out after so many months but I actually found it when I was doing my own search on the internet. I Just figured out that it's not normal to see colours when you see words I brought it up three times in my lifetime. I was 11 when I told my mother and she thought I was just copying something I read. So I never brought it up again until I started working for a psychologist (2 years ago) and she'd never heard of it! So a year ago she read an article about it being a
Neurological glitch" and now she and my mom both believe me. Funny enough, I was reading the book Born on a Blue Day about this autistic savant who has it as well. he stated that it tends to be heretitary. I called my unsuspecting mother and asked her if she sees colors when she hears words and she said, "No, but I taste things when I hear sounds" I said, "REALLY?!?!" and she said "yeah, I figured it was normal because whenever I mentioned it to my mother she said, 'yeah, you're dad used to complain about that too'" !!!!! I can't believe my mom and grandfather went their entire lives without knowing and I'm just figuring this all out at 22. HUH.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 08:02 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.