“she first realized that other people didn't see things the same way she did when she was a little kid and she said “Mommy, what is the note of the floor?” and her mom said that the floor had a color, not a note.”

Defining Synesthesia

Qualities and Characteristics of Synesthesia

While the specific characteristics of synesthesia are dependent on the exact type of synesthesia one has, the following list can serve as a general guideline to the overarching characteristics (as diagnosed by neurologist Richard Cytowic) found among each of the types.

  • Synesthetic percepts are consistent, stable, and generic ( A synesthete tested on his or her associations will give the same answers 70%-100% of the time when recalled).
  • Perceptions are involuntary and cannot be suppressed. The sensations are not controlled consciously.
  • Synesthetes can recall these sensations as far back as they can remember.
  • Synesthetes are often artistic, performing higher on cognitive assessment and memory tests, but lower on tests of spatial function.
  • Synesthetic perceptions are spatially extended, meaning they often have a sense of “location.”
  • Synesthesia is “affect-laden” – doing calculations for them may be very pleasurable, like having an epiphany, however mismatched colors or other crossed events may be crucially displeasurable, like “nails on a chalkboard”, intolerable even.
  • This condition may help synesthetes with their memory, as synesthetes can form strong associations with their synesthetic perceptions

How does the study of synesthesia relate to people who don't have it?

  • It has been supported that certain symptoms of Synesthesia are also related to the brain activity of those with Austism, phantom limbs, and migranes. While Synesthesia itself has not been shown to be harmful, if we understand it better, it may help us better understand the workings of the brain to find relief for harmful conditions.

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