Synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sense such as sound, leads to the involuntary and automatic stimulation of a second and sometimes even a third sense. It is thought that around 1 in 2000 people have some form of the condition, and it is thought to be caused by the brain having extra ‘links’ between areas that control the senses. There are possibly over 60 different forms of synaesthesia, but I’m going to be talking about one particular type: grapheme-colour synaesthesia, which is the most common form of synaesthesia.
Essentially, grapheme-colour synaesthesia is the association of letters or numbers (graphemes) with colours, and whilst it is very unlikely that a synesthete will report perceiving the same colour for all graphemes as another synesthete, there are some consistencies, such as red for the letter ‘A’ and yellow for ‘S’. Often, there tends to be no pattern for the colours perceived, although in some cases, it appears that more frequent letters tend to be paired with more common colours.
Experts who have studied synaesthesia believe it to be more common in females, left handed people, or those with above average intelligence. As well as this, it is thought that it could possibly be hereditary. Synesthetes also tend to share traits, such as getting confused between left and right; having a poor sense of direction; being perfectionists; being introverted and being very creative.
There is evidence to suggest that hypnosis has been able to stop people from experiencing synaesthesia, but in reality, those with it tend to actually find it quite useful, as grapheme-colour synaesthesia in particular has proved useful for remembering names and telephone numbers, but for now, much more research is needed in this area of science before we can fully understand those who experience synaesthesia.
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