Can you teach yourself synaesthesia?


A researcher at the University of Amsterdam has concluded that synaesthesia might not be merely genetic:

To test the idea, they gave seven volunteers a novel to read in which certain letters were always written in red, green, blue or orange (see picture). Before and after reading the book, the volunteers took a “synaesthetic crowding” test, in which they identified the middle letter of a grid of black letters which were quickly flashed onto a screen. Synaesthetes perform better on the test when a letter they experience in colour is the target letter.

The volunteers performed significantly better on this test after training compared with people who read the novel in black and white.

Seven is a really small sample size. This needs to be reproduced with larger samples to be accepted.

New Scientist: Can you teach yourself synaesthesia?

(Thanks Nova!)

Is synaesthesia a high-level brain power?

THE word “synaesthesia” derives from the phrase “joining of the senses”, but the phenomenon might not be the uncontrollable perceptual mishmash that this implies. Instead, the condition may be the result of a special ability in the “higher” brain areas used for language and attention. […]

Ward’s explanation is that colours don’t “pop out” at synaesthetes automatically. Instead, they only see numbers in colour if they fall within their focus of attention. So when volunteers happened to aim their attention at the part of the display in which the shape was hidden, he reasons, they found it quickly, but when their focus captured none, or just a portion, of the shape, they performed no better than controls (see diagram). If Ward is right, this implies that higher aspects of the brain are unusual in synaesthesia, not just those involved in automatic perception.

New Scientist: Is synaesthesia a high-level brain power?

(via Atom Jack)

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