Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

leigh urbschat's picture

"Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes"

The topic of synesthesia is actually what I'm writing my web paper on so I thought I would share some information since it's really very interesting. Like you said in your above post a synesthete has some cross wiring going on in their brain. According to a Scientific American article I read on the subject, when light reflected off a subejct hits the color receptors in the eye neural signals from the retina travel to the optical lobe at the back of the brain. The image is then processed to a further extent to determine characteristics like color, depth, etc. Afterward the information separating these characteristics is distributed into different parts of the brain, of which color information is sent to the area of the brain known as the the fusiform gyrus in the temporal lobe. The processing of numbers also occurs in steps, one of which occurs in the fusiform gyrus as well. Scientists now suspect that due to the close proximity of the processing area of both of these characteristics, wiring indeed must become crossed within a synethete's brain (it is very typical for a synesthete to see numbers as colored). They have also found that the hearing region of the brain also is within close proximity the the part of the brain that processes colors, which also may explain the occurence of seeing colors when hearing a sound.

To answer your question about whether this cross wiring enhances or impedes ones realtion with the world around then I would answer that it is just another way in which someone views the world. Just as we talked about in class how my view of a classmate is probably different from yours and different from that person's view of themself, a synesthete is going to view the world differently as well. Just in there case we are able to find an extreme enough difference that it is noteworthy to study. In the tests done in the article I read, the subjects know that the 5 they are seeing is not actually red to everyone else, but it is tinted red when they look at it (just an example). In other words, I don't believe that synethesia would impede ones view of the world, it would probably just make it more interesting!


To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
15 + 4 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.