If you read the title to this post and thought, ‘what the hell is she on about?’, then you and I are similar in the sense that neither of us has Synaesthesia. However, if you were able to answer the question, identifying what colour ‘L’ is, then you have something called Synaesthesia, which is the very topic of today’s blog post…
Synaesthesia- it’s something that I have no personal experience with, nevertheless I was keen to write a post about it today, as the whole concept of it fascinates me.
Prior to last night I had never even heard of it, it wasn’t until I was scrolling through YouTube, and I came across an interview with Billie Eilish in which she spoke about it, that I even knew it existed.
Anyway, now that I do know it exists, I feel like everyone else needs to know about it too. Its something that, surprisingly, a lot of people have, and like I said previously, that simply fascinates me.
So, without further ado, lets get into today’s post!
What it is:
Synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which the brain attributes certain characteristics to certain things. In other words, a ‘blending of the senses’ occurs. For example, upon seeing the word ‘Monday’, a particular colour might come to the mind of an individual with Synaesthesia.
Something that I find really interesting about the condition, is that the characteristics ascribed to things is personal to individuals on a person-to-person basis. You could have ten people in a room all of whom have Synaesthesia, and upon asking them; ‘what colour is Monday?’, each one could, and most likely would, give a different answer. Isn’t that just mind-blowing?!
Types of Synaesthesia:
It is important to note that there are many different types of Synaesthesia, over 60 different types, in fact! The type I have described above whereby one sees days of the week as particular colours is known as ‘Grapheme-Colour Synaesthesia.’ In contrast, someone who experiences a taste in their mouth when hearing a given word would be diagnosed as having ‘Lexical-Gustatory Synaesthesia.’ Another type is ‘Odour-Visual/Spatial Synaesthesia.’ This is diagnosed in people who see shapes, movements, and/or colours, when they detect certain smells.
People with Synaesthesia:
What’s even more mind blowing about Synaesthesia, is the fact that it has long been linked to creativity, with several high-profile celebrities having it, including Billie Eilish, Pharrell Williams, and Lady Gaga, to name just a few.
The mysterious condition doesn’t just affect celebrities, though, for it is estimated that at least 4.4% of adults in the UK have some form of Synaesthesia (though this is just an estimated number, due to the limited amount of research that has been conducted into the field of Synaesthesia thus far.)
It is thought that the condition primarily runs in families, with research indicating that around 40% of people with Synaesthesia know of at least one other family member who has it.
Benefits of Synaesthesia:
The interesting thing is that, unlike most conditions, Synaesthesia is something that many people without it actually long for. It gives off the same effect, the same altered sense of perception, that certain psychedelic drugs such as LSD do.
In the opinion of most people living with the condition, Synaesthesia is a ‘gift’, therefore the idea of seeking ‘treatment’ for it, is quite frankly absurd. Why? Because as I have highlighted above, it has long been linked to creativity, something that I’m sure we all want to possess more of in our lives, right?!
Wanting Synaesthesia doesn’t just come down to us all desiring enhanced creativity though, it goes a lot deeper than that. Scientific studies have been carried out suggesting that Synaesthesia could have a positive impact on the memories of those who have it. This poses the question; ‘could it potentially be used to ward off the decline in cognitive function of the elderly in today’s ageing society?’ If there is even a slight chance that the answer to this question could be ‘yes’, then we need to look very closely at Synaesthesia, and try to determine whether it is something that could be learnt, or, like other neurological conditions such as epilepsy, is it something completely uncontrollable? If it is found that the former is true, that people can ‘learn’ Synaesthesia, this could be a revolutionary finding in the fight to find a cure for dementia, a disease which is now the second leading cause of death in the UK (the first being COVID-19, as of 2020.)