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Monday, May 7, 2007

Synesthesia

Did You Know: Synesthesia is a rare neurologic condition where one type of stimulation evokes the sense of another stimulation. For example hearing a sound may simultaneously induce the sensation of a color, smell or taste. Here is a personal account of this interesting phenomenon:

"When Ingrid Carey says she feels colors, she does not mean she sees red, or feels blue, or is green with envy. She really does feel them. She can also taste them, and hear them, and smell them.

The 20-year-old junior at the University of Maine has synesthesia, a rare neurological condition in which two or more of the senses entwine. Numbers and letters, sensations and emotions, days and months are all associated with colors for Carey. The letter "N" is sienna brown; "J" is light green; the number "8" is orange; and July is bluish-green. The pain from a shin split throbs in hues of orange and yellow, purple and red"

The cause remains a mystery but some possible explanations are outlined below:

"According to one idea, irregular sprouting of new neural connections within the brain leads to a breakdown of the boundaries that normally exist between the senses. In this view, synesthesia is the collective chatter of sensory neighbors once confined to isolation.

Another theory, based on research conducted by Daphne Maurer and Catherine Mondloch at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, suggests all infants may begin life as synesthetes. In this way of thinking, animals and humans are born with immature brains that are highly malleable. Connections between different sensory parts of the brain exists that later become pruned or blocked as an organism matures, Mondloch explained.

Maurer and Mondloch hypothesize that if these connections between the senses are functional, as some experiments suggest, then infants should experience the world in a way that is similar to synesthetic adults."

Pretty interesting! More on this on http://www.livescience.com/humanbiology/050222_synesthesia.html

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