Can chocolate cake taste green and Tuesdays be purple? Can prime numbers give blissful sensations or classical music sound red? Or can the number 25 be more generous than the number 34? For many, these things may sound quite ridiculous, but in fact, these descriptions can be explained by a condition called synesthesia. Synesthesia is a rare and unique cognitive perception disorder, in which more than one sensory or cognitive pathway is simultaneously stimulated in the brain. People with this condition, are known as synesthetes, and when one of their senses is activated, another unrelated sense is automatically triggered as well. For example, a synesthete may taste sounds, hear in color, or smell numbers. In order to gain a better understanding of synesthesia, one must know what exactly this condition is, details about the condition, theories explaining how and why it occurs, as well as current and future research about Synesthesia.

Why Study Synesthesia?

Synesthesia is a generally new condition to scientific research, yet in the last twenty years, so much has been revealed about this unique perceptual disorder. It is a topic of research that is constantly expanding, with new questions addressed and new experiments performed. Though studies have shown that the condition of synesthesia is genetic, future researchers could investigate what specific gene is linked to synesthesia, and if it is possible to create and control this condition. Other studies could further investigate the neural basis of synesthesia to hopefully determine or confirm the conflicting theories. One could study young infants and examine their perceptions of the world, in order to investigate the theory that every human is born with synesthesia. Potentially, future researchers may examine non-synesthetes to determine if varying degrees of this condition are really present in as many as one in twenty-three individuals.

Although cognitive psychologists have not yet been able to pinpoint the causes of synesthesia, the population statistics, or even the number of forms of the condition, there is no doubt in the existence of this disorder, and the varying synesthetic perceptions. Psychologists and cognitive scientists will continue to study this fascinating cognitive perception disorder as it grows more popular and pervasive in our society. By simply studying the existence of synesthesia, the field of psychology and cognitive science gain a better understanding of the mystery of the human mind and perception.

  • Pearce, J. M. S. (2006).Synaesthesia. European Neurology. 57, 120–124.

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