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Shannon's picture

Synesthesia....Genetic?

I was recalling our in-class conversation on Tuesday about Howard's End. I took particular interest to the topic of Helen's reaction to listening to Beethoven's 5th Symphony in Ch. 5. Instead of focusing solely on the music, Helen creates a story full of goblins. When Anne mentioned the term "Synesthesia", I knew be interested in learning more regarding the concept.

Synesthesia is neurologically involuntary. "It is estimated that synesthesia may be as prevalant as 1 in 23 persons across its range of variants. It runs strongly in families, possibly inherited as an X-linked dominant trait. Synesthesia is also sometimes reported by individuals under the influence of psychedelic drugs, after a stroke, or as a consequence of blindness or deafness" (Wikipedia). It is a very memorable experience when it occurs.

Recent data suggests that grapheme → color, and days of the week → color variants are most common ( Day 2005; Simner et al. 2006). This I thought was very strange: there are common cases of Synesthesia being passed from father to daughter, mother to daughter, and mother to son... but never a recorded case of Father to son. HMMM. The condition can also skip a generation. The genes don't lead to specific types of synesthesia though, which means that the environment plays a role in its development. Nature and nurture turn psychedelic... what stories will we come up with next?

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