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Synesthesia: seeing sounds

Synesthesia: seeing sounds

It causes the brain to process data in several senses simultaneously. For example, people with synesthesia may hear sounds while seeing them as colourful swirls.

About 1 in 2,000 people experience synesthesia. The condition is more common in artists, writers and musicians. (about 20 to 25 percent of these professions have the condition.)

Proposed causes for Synesthesia

  • Research by Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that synesthesia results from an overabundance of neural connections.
  • Peter Grossenbacher thinks it happens when single-sense areas of the brain get feedback from multisensory regions and not from a usual single-sense area.
  • Daphne Maurer proposed that everyone has these connections, but not everyone uses them.

Types of synesthesia

According to Psychology Today, over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported. The most common type is grapheme-colour synesthesia - when letters or numbers seem to be coloured on a page or visualised as coloured.

Other types include:

  • Smelling certain scents when hearing certain sounds.
  • Seeing music as colours.
  • Tasting words.
  • Feeling certain textures cause certain emotions.
  • Feeling that time has a physical characteristic.
  • Seeing a particular colour when feeling pain.

Synesthesia diagnosis

People with synesthesia often experience the following:

  • Involuntarily experience their perceptions
  • Have a perception that is the same each time.
  • Have a generic perception, such as seeing a shape in response to a specific smell.
  • Remember the secondary synesthetic perception better than the primary perception.
  • Have emotional reactions linked to their perceptions, such as a pleasurable feeling.

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