I to be born through synesthesia, a problem that is fascinating to talk about -- but daunting to explain


It"s prime time to comment on an old favorite of mine (and the many shade fans): synesthesia, that curious trick of details brains, mine included, that provides one "see" color in letters and numbers in dry black-and-white, or view them in sounds, tastes or textures. Welcome to one of the an ext beautiful and strange wrinkles in the color-brain.

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Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9... Top top Flickr. Logo design by Chermayeff & Geismar.

"The number 1, for example, is a brilliant and bright white, prefer someone shining a flashlight into my eyes. 5 is a clap of thunder or the sound of tide crashing against rocks. Thirty-seven is lumpy choose porridge, while 89 reminds me of falling snow ... In an interview with talk show host David Letterman in brand-new York, i told David he looked choose the number 117 -- tall and lanky. Later on outside, in ... Times Square, i gazed up at the towering skyscrapers and also felt surrounding by 9s -- the number I many associate with feelings the immensity."

That"s Daniel Tammet speaking, among 50 life savants an international and an uncommonly articulate synesthete -- a feat made much more amazing by the fact that he"s also high-functioning autistic. Daniel"s publication "Born ~ above 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 of old friends. Numbers expose themselves come him in turn, complete with highly details colors and shapes, and a particular location in his mental landscape.

His super-charged synesthesia allows extraordinary tasks of memory, favor the time he recited pi come 22,514 decimal places or learned Icelandic, his ninth international language, come fluency within a week. (Wire her jaw shut before watching this Channel 4 documentary around Tammet, "The Boy with the tremendous Brain".)


Something about synesthesia is devouringly fascinating, come the civilization who have it as lot as the human being who don"t. I"m no savant, but I"ve seen colors fastened to my numbers and also letters forever. The knowledge of what this feels like is innate; it difficulties language to define it.

As kids, my brother and also I said matter-of-factly around the assignation that colors to graphemes -- his alphabet has tendency toward yellows, mine to various reds. Us told my mother recently about this, who dismissed the totality thing together nonsense, till she didn"t prefer -- or, more accurately, felt, primally wronged -- by the color-matches us were articulating. The course, it transforms out she has actually synesthesia too. As soon as it came to be clear to her what the term intended (and just how non-crazy she is to have actually it), us all chattered ~ above happily around which colors go with which letters. My dad sat ping-ponging between the three of us, mystified.

Synesthesia native Flickr

Synesthesia has actually garnered sufficient headlines the most world know generally what the is. (If you have it, you"re likely currently aware of that fact -- but this battery of emotional tests will help you pen the prize down.) So where does synesthesia come from?

It"s a dreamy, not authorised quirk arising from "cross-talk" in between tangled areas of the brain. Normally baby-brains prune themselves end time, separating mind regions through differing functions. Pruning may be incomplete in synesthetes in the fusiform gyrus, where the areas responsible for graphemes (letters and also numbers) lie snugly alongside each other. Studies display synesthetes pack an ext connective "white matter" tissue between these brain areas than non-synesthetes do.

This 2007 TED talk by neuroscientist VS Ramachandran summarizes these origins nicely, if hinting in ~ synesthesia"s possible usefulness -- the totality talk is interesting, however skip come 17:00 because that the synesthesia stuff.

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So what"s the usefulness of synesthesia -- is there evolutionarily any point? and also what other opportunities of brain investigation carry out scientists use synesthesia to explore? I"ll conserve those answers in tantalizing format for my second post in this series. Because that now, suffice it to say: Synesthesia is famously, yet not narrowly, helpful in raising a brain"s creativity. Ramanchandran ventures just that synesthetic brains are hard-wired to make unforeseen leaps. But naturally that feels choose a bloodless definition. Come prime her color-mad pumps for following time, I"ll leaving you through this plummy evocation that creativity and synesthesia than this quote native synesthete Vladimir Nabokov"s 1967 memoir, "Speak, Memory." Swoon!

"The long "a" the the English alphabet ... Has for me the tint of weathering wood, yet a French "a" evokes sleek ebony. This black color group likewise includes tough "g" (vulcanized rubber) and "r" (a sooty rag bag gift ripped). Oatmeal "n", noodle-limp "l", and also the ivory-backed hand mirror of "o" take care of the whites. Ns am confused by my French "on" which I check out as the brimming tension-surface of alcohol in a small glass."

A Redbud on ice cream on Flickr

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

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