I to be born through synesthesia, a condition that is fascinating come talk around -- but daunting to explain


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It"s prime time to talk about an old favorite of mine (and of many color fans): synesthesia, that curious trick of particular brains, mine included, that makes one "see" colors in letters and numbers in dry black-and-white, or see them in sounds, tastes or textures. Welcome to one of the more beautiful and also strange wrinkles in the color-brain.

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Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9... ~ above Flickr. Logo by Chermayeff & Geismar.

"The number 1, for example, is a brilliant and bright white, like someone shining a flashlight into my eyes. Five is a clap the thunder or the sound of tide crashing against rocks. Thirty-seven is lumpy choose porridge, while 89 reminds me that falling eye ... In an interview v talk display host David Letterman in brand-new York, i told David that looked like the number 117 -- tall and lanky. Later outside, in ... Times Square, i gazed up at the towering skyscrapers and also felt surrounding by 9s -- the number I most associate v feelings of immensity."

That"s Daniel Tammet speaking, among 50 life savants an international and an unusually articulate synesthete -- a feat made much more amazing by the reality that he"s likewise high-functioning autistic. Daniel"s book "Born on a Blue Day" chronicles the fascinating insides the his brain, just how he finds not just color in numbers however the solace and also particularities the old friends. Numbers expose themselves to him in turn, finish with highly particular colors and also shapes, and also a details location in his psychological landscape.

His super-charged synesthesia enables extraordinary tasks of memory, prefer the time that recited pi come 22,514 decimal locations or learned Icelandic, his ninth foreign language, to fluency in ~ a week. (Wire her jaw shut before watching this Channel four documentary around Tammet, "The Boy through the significant Brain".)

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Something about synesthesia is devouringly fascinating, come the world who have it as lot as the human being who don"t. I"m no savant, yet I"ve checked out colors attached to my numbers and also letters forever. The knowledge of what this feels choose is innate; it challenges language to explain it.

As kids, mine brother and also I suggested matter-of-factly around the assignation of colors come graphemes -- his alphabet tends toward yellows, mine to various reds. We told my mommy recently around this, who dismissed the entirety thing as nonsense, till she didn"t favor -- or, more accurately, felt, primally wronged -- by the color-matches we were articulating. The course, it transforms out she has actually synesthesia too. As soon as it ended up being clear to her what the term meant (and exactly how non-crazy she is to have it), us all chattered ~ above happily about which color go through which letters. My dad satellite ping-ponging between the 3 of us, mystified.

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Synesthesia native Flickr

Synesthesia has garnered sufficient headlines the most people know generally what it is. (If you have actually it, you"re likely already aware of that truth -- but this battery of emotional tests will aid you pin the answer down.) So wherein does synesthesia come from?

It"s a dreamy, not authorised quirk emerging from "cross-talk" between tangled areas of the brain. Usually baby-brains prune themselves over time, separating brain regions through differing functions. Pruning might be incomplete in synesthetes in the fusiform gyrus, wherein the areas responsible because that graphemes (letters and also numbers) lie snugly alongside each other. Studies present synesthetes pack more connective "white matter" tissue in between these brain areas 보다 non-synesthetes do.

This 2007 TED speak by neuroscientist VS Ramachandran summarizes these origins nicely, when hinting at synesthesia"s possible usefulness -- the whole talk is interesting, however skip to 17:00 for the synesthesia stuff.

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So what"s the usefulness of synesthesia -- is there evolutionarily any kind of point? and what other avenues of mind investigation carry out scientists usage synesthesia come explore? I"ll conserve those answer in tantalizing style for my 2nd post in this series. For now, suffice it to say: Synesthesia is famously, yet not narrowly, helpful in an enhancing a brain"s creativity. Ramanchandran ventures only that synesthetic brains are hard-wired to make unanticipated leaps. However naturally the feels prefer a bloodless definition. To prime her color-mad pumps for next time, I"ll leave you with this plummy evocation that creativity and also synesthesia than this quote native synesthete Vladimir Nabokov"s 1967 memoir, "Speak, Memory." Swoon!

"The long "a" of the English alphabet ... Has for me the tint of weathered wood, however a French "a" evokes refined ebony. This black group also includes tough "g" (vulcanized rubber) and "r" (a sooty rag bag being ripped). Oatmeal "n", noodle-limp "l", and also the ivory-backed hand mirror of "o" take treatment of the whites. I am perplexed by mine French "on" i beg your pardon I view as the brimming tension-surface that alcohol in a small glass."

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A Redbud on ice on Flickr

P.S. Let"s leave the document straight here. Ns picked the number 9 picture leading this short article because it"s the proper color, a interlocutor cherry red -- although my 9 often tends toward brick. Nabokov is right on about on"s limpid pallor, however he"s foolish if he thinks "r" is sooty-brown, as soon as it"s so glossy licorice black. The color-squabble continues next time!

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