Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

One person out of every thousand has synaesthesia ...

27.12.2007
... a psychological phenomenon in which an individual can smell a sound or hear a colour

Most of these people are not aware they are synaesthetes and feel certain about the way they perceive things: they think the way they experience the world is normal. But, when they realize that something is not quite right, they become disappointed.

The research field has grown from grapheme-colour synaesthesia to include other forms of synaesthesia in which flavours are evoked by music or words (lexical-gustatory synaesthesia), space structures by time units, colours by music, etc.

Experts on Experimental Psychology from the University of Granada are studying this phenomenon. The results of this research have been published by the following scientific journals, among others: Cortex, Experimental Brain Research and Consciousness and Cognition.

Surprising as it may seem, there are people who can smell sounds, see smells or hear colours. Actually, all of as, at some point in our lives, have had this skill (some authors affirm that it is common in newborns). This phenomenon, called “synaesthesia” – from the Greek “syn” (with) and “aisthesis” (sensation) – consists of the pairing of two bodily senses by which the perception of a determined stimulus activates a different subjective perception with no external stimulus (in science, the evoker stimulus is called inducer and the additional experience concurrent).

In the department of Experimental Psychology and Physiology at the University of Granada, a research group is carrying out pioneer work in Spain on the systematic study of synaesthesia and its relation with perception and emotions. Professor Juan Lupiáñez Castillo and Alicia Callejas Sevilla have devoted many years to the study of this unknown but interesting phenomenon, which affects approximately one person out of every thousand. Many of these people do not even know that they are synaesthetes, as they think they perceive the world normally.

Pioneers

Callejas’ doctoral thesis is one of the most detailed studies on this phenomenon at an international level, and it is probably the first doctoral thesis on this topic in Europe. Her study covers the various forms of synaesthesia focussing on the most common one: the grapheme-colour type (for people with this form of synaesthesia, letters, words and numbers evoke colours in an automatic and involuntary way).

One of the distinctive characteristics of this form of synaesthesia is the fact that people are certain about their perceptions: they feel that their way of experiencing the world is correct, and they become disappointed when they realize there is something that is not quite right. ‘Therefore, when a person with grapheme-colour synaesthesia indicates that the word table is blue, it is quite probable that if he or she ever sees the same word written in a colour other than blue, this word will appear to him or her as wrong and consider it a mistake. The synaesthete might even point out that the word is ugly or that he or she does not like it because it is not correct,’ affirms Callejas. Consequently, finding the word table written in red might be unpleasant whereas seeing it in blue might be agreeable. This emotional reaction associated with how synaesthetes perceive consistent or inconsistent stimuli is an extremely interesting subject and has been studied for the first time in this doctoral thesis.

Irrepressible reactions

Some of Callejas’ conclusions show that these emotional reactions occur automatically and can not be ignored. Moreover, they can affect the synaesthete to the point of slanting his or her preferences when faced with certain stimuli which correspond to his or her inner experiences. Even more important is the fact that these emotions can transform how they perceive events associated with these experiences. These events may have no emotional meaning initially but they can become more or less pleasant if they take place at the same time the synaesthete finds a word in the correct or incorrect colour.

‘Then, there are people for whom time units evoke colours – explains the researcher. It is also common for a synaesthete to see colours when listening to words, sounds in general or music notes (people who can see music, for instance). There are also cases, although fewer, where people can see colours in flavours, others perceive flavours or experience touch sensations when listening to different sounds, some link flavours to touch sensations, etc.’

An permanent vision

These researchers from Granada underline that synaesthetes always experience the same vision, synaesthesia is permanent (a given stimulus always evokes the same colour for one person) and idiosyncratic (it is different for each person). Therefore, if for a synaesthete the word dog is red, every time he or she sees it, it will be perceived as red.

Even though synaesthesia has been known for a long time, its scientific study is relatively recent. Writings such as the Castel one, in which reference is made to previous studies about a synaesthesia case in a blind person, are found in the 18th century. The evolution of the study of this phenomenon has been spectacular – the number of researchers working on this topic is constantly increasing, as will be evident in the Conference which will take place in Granada – and, as the phase of proving that this phenomenon exists has been overcome, explains Alicia Callejas, ‘we are starting to approach questions of major theoretical importance, and to develop adequate study strategies.’ The results of her research have been published in the following prestigious scientific journals, among others: Cortex, Experimental Brain Research and Consciousness and Cognition.

Nowadays, the research field goes from grapheme-colour synaesthesia to other forms never studied before: flavours evoked by music or words (lexical-gustatory synaesthesia), space structures linked to time units, colours and music, etc.

Reference: Dr. Alicia Callejas Sevilla. Department of Experimental Psychology and Behaviour Physiology. University of Granada, Phone: +34 958 240 667 – +34 958 240 663. E-mail: callejas@ugr.es

Antonio Marín Ruiz | alfa
Further information:
http://prensa.ugr.es/prensa/research/verNota/prensa.php?nota=453

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections
17.02.2017 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Tiny magnetic implant offers new drug delivery method
14.02.2017 | University of British Columbia

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>