Imagine smelling color or tasting sound? Seems impossible, right? For patients suffering from a condition known as synesthesia, these sensory experiences are very real.
Defined as a condition in which the senses are undifferentiated, synesthesia is more common among females with a 6:1 ration when compared to males. Additionally, the condition is believed to strike as many as 1 in 2,000 people and is believed to be genetic with left-handed individuals more commonly impacted than right-handed. What is important to note is that synsthesia is not considered a disease and most individuals with the condition carry an above average intelligence level and do not demonstrate any greater level of mental disorders. Of interesting note is the common thread that most synesthesia individuals are highly creative and generally pursue careers in the arts.
Identified by its pattern or presentation, synesthesia individuals find their condition enhances their quality of life. Named for the senses affected, individuals may have up to 35 combinations, or subtypes, of the condition. Some might include sound-taste, color-taste or the most common which appear to be color-graphemic where simple letters or text may produce color visuals.
Not widely studied, synesthesia is believed to originate in the brain and is causally related to a “mis-wiring” in which synapse, or neurons, specific to one sensory area of the brain may overlap into another sensory area. Most notably, the limbic and cerebral cortex are most often identified as origination points. Some scientists believe the condition develops as early as the first four months of life in which some children view black and white balls as emitting varying pitches of sound. The sensory stimulation is not controlled by the individual however, the level of intensity may vary.
Because synesthesia is not considered a detriment to the individual with the condition, there is no cure. However, support groups and social clubs have been developed to bring individuals, living with synesthesia, together.