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Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?



This essay describes the results of the author’s projects of studying synaesthesia in Spain (University of Granada). It outlines several surveys of potential synaesthetes and possible relations of synaesthesia, creativity and types of “sensory representation”/ intelligence. The author provides her own original definition of “natural synaesthesia” as multi-modal thinking actualized through diffuse perception and polyphonic attention. Such an understanding emphasises the importance of constant philosophical reconsideration of synaesthesia and an interdisciplinary approach to researching the phenomenon. One of the major conclusions made in this essay is that synaesthesia is embedded in the multiple and multilevel processes of the unconscious that constitute both thinking and creativity. Which in turn might mean that perception could be explained through synesthesia and not the other way around, with subsequent revision of the theories of cognitive processes in psychology and neurosciences. The described results lay the foundations for the author’s synaesthesia-based applied methodologies in art education that are aimed to raise awareness of unusual perception among potential synaesthetes and enhance holistic creative thinking of the students through the multi-sensory aspects that they can further include into their own projects.
M. José De Córdoba Serrano
Research, Development and
Cultural Promotion Department of
Artecittà International Foundation & UGR.;
Why study synesthesia?
What can that teach us about ourselves?
Abstract. This essay describes the results of the author’s projects of studying
synaesthesia in Spain (University of Granada). It outlines several surveys
of potential synaesthetes and possible relations of synaesthesia, creativity and types
of “sensory representation”/ intelligence. The author provides her own original
denition of “natural synaesthesia” as multi-modal thinking actualized through
diffuse perception and polyphonic attention. Such an understanding emphasises
the importance of constant philosophical reconsideration of synaesthesia and
an interdisciplinary approach to researching the phenomenon. One of the major
conclusions made in this essay is that synaesthesia is embedded in the multiple and
multilevel processes of the unconscious that constitute both thinking and creativity.
Which in turn might mean that perception could be explained through synesthesia
and not the other way around, with subsequent revision of the theories of cognitive
processes in psychology and neurosciences. The described results lay the foundations
for the author’s synaesthesia-based applied methodologies in art education that are
aimed to raise awareness of unusual perception among potential synaesthetes and
enhance holistic creative thinking of the students through the multi-sensory aspects
that they can further include into their own projects.
Keywords: synaesthesia; ideaesthesia; survey; applied methodologies; art education;
multi-modal thinking; sensory representations.
There are many reasons to think that, during these last few years of study
on synesthesia, a remarkable majority of the sciences known today have
Ed. Nicolaus Copernicus University 2013
178 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
taken an interest in this phenomenon. Lately, not only neuroscience and
psychology have turned to synesthesia, but also new technologies, the science
of education, and the Visual Arts. There are also emerging studies, such
as the neuroesthetics or neuromarketing, that have become very attracted to
this phenomenon. All of these studies have led to reconsidering a lot of the
concepts that were immovable, certain and determined; these are ones related
to knowledge, thinking, the psychology of perception, cognition, language,
learning, intelligence and others, tottering many theories of perception and
cognitive development.
Recalling Ortega y Gasset in What is philosophy? (1960), I also maintain
that the latest scientic ideas, hesitating, show themselves to be unsafe and
poorly founded; in this case, we are referring not to the knowledge of “being”
and the need to ll our “ignorance”, in general, by our lack of “knowledge”
of what is “being” in philosophy (whatever it is as it relates “to being”).
In this paper I am making an attempt at contemplating something as difcult
as synesthetic perception and its true being, its true essence and existence.
If synesthesia is a genuine perception, and it does function in compliance
with the laws of such, as so many contemporary researchers in the eld
of cognitive psychology and neuroscience have shown in these last
25 years (e.g., Spector and Maurer 2009; Asher et al. 2006, 2009), there is,
however, not a theory that fully explains it. To mention just a few schools
of thought: neither associationism, which sees the perception as a “mosaic
of sensations,” nor Gestalt theory that, paradoxically, could have explained
it better because of its holistic approach, equipped with all its laws, anyway,
overlooked the syncretic undifferentiated vision, when we perceive the
whole of something so diffuse, with polyphonic attention. This is a fact that I
have always pointed out since my early research, and which is closely related
to attention (conscious and unconscious). Regarding this, Gestalt theory has
also failed to explain synesthetic perceptions.
This syncretistic vision, in addition to diffuse attention, is very much
related to the human creative capacity, which is very closely linked to
intuition and the unconscious. Indeed, the Gestalt explains optical illusions
very well. And if everything that we perceive is an “illusion”, and everything
that we “know” about the world is what we see/receive, would synesthesia
also be an illusion? Although synesthesia seems to be a much more complex
perceptive/cognitive phenomenon.
Notably, some previous researchers in neuroscience come to the
conclusion that even the colors do not exist and are wonderful perceptions
that our brain creates as “quale”:
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
What this means is that our more simple perceptions have made us
what we are. More than that, and this is truly amazing, the color
remember, which does not exist - has molded the physical fabric
of the world and has been the core of the human culture. Due to
our intimate relationship with color, people have been asking for
centuries if you see what I see. Our response would reveal not
only a lot about how our brain works, but also about who we are
as individuals, as well as societies […]. Are we being deceived?
Or do we all see the world in different ways. In fact, we have no
other choice, given that our experiences are different. But none
of it looks like it is. In that sense, we all live deceived: What each
of us sees is a meaning derived from our individual stories and
shared. This reality, perhaps more than anything else, provides
an irrefutable argument to celebrate diversity, rather than to settle
for fear. And that is liberating, because knowing it gives you the
freedom to take responsibility for their future perceptions about
this and other things.
Image 1. Beau Lotto is one of several scientists who depart from the question that so
many of us have: do you see what I see?
Later on, in the middle of the 20th century, Denis pointed out that part
of non-verbal knowledge consists not only in images, but also implies
synesthesia, motor skills, the corporeal and affectivity. An image is not
a passive layer of psychological reality, but an active construction (Denis
1979). So, if this is considered true, we could say that perhaps our perception
could be explained through synesthesia and not the other way around. This
prompts another allusion to Ortega y Gasset stating that man discovers time
after time, below that system of views, the primordial chaos, and steps back
180 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
only to feel shipwrecked. “As a result, he returns to philosophy, to build
a being more rm” (Ortega y Gasset 1960).
I felt like starting my essay with a nod to philosophy, the mother of all
sciences, because one of my conclusions is that, necessarily, just as science
and art should never have separated, Philosophy has much to say in the study/
science of synesthesia, regarding the way Cognition goes hand in hand with
synesthesia (for which here I use the term natural) to construct the world we
In contrast, vivid synesthesia, which might also be manifested
as ideaesthesia at its least, should be conceived as low-level conceptual
synesthesia or of an unconscious/subconscious character, and gained in our
evolutionary and cognitive development. Although there are new hypotheses
about whether synesthesia, as it is generally called, is to be actually called
ideaesthesia, term proposed by Danko Nikolić (2012), but, in my opinion,
this notion is best to be reserved for low-level conceptual or unconscious/
subconscious synesthesia and, in this respect, I will use this term as such
from now on.
The questions raised here are pertinent questions, as Socrates would
say, and my questions, rightly or wrongly constructed, I say with all
humility, have led me to the conclusions I will present at the end of this
paper. However, I must relate what the steps were in my research, which
I began in the late ‘80s, and continued between turns, reconsidering my
concepts and perspective. This has given me a better understanding that the
dimensions my study encompasses are so tremendous, that it necessitates an
interdisciplinary approach.
My research focuses on the phenomenon of synesthesia as natural
perception, that is likely to be mitigated during cognitive development
and acquiring the regularities of the “sensory world” (also mediated by
cultural systems and stimulated a little by educational methodology), due to
specialization of the senses (here I agree with Spector and Maurer 2009). But
it can be active and ongoing throughout life, for various reasons, in a small
percentage of the population, perhaps by inheritance, as per the theories
of geneticists, or by a stimulating environment facilitating its sustenance,
enhancing creative thinking in people engaged in the arts or creativity
in general.
The results of my study are applied in the eld of education, which,
as we know, is also interested in methodologies that enhance the overall
abilities of students, especially if they belong to the eld of Fine Arts. This
is precisely what our objective is: to enhance the overall abilities of the
student through the multi-sensory.
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
Since 2006, I have conducted general surveys of potential synesthetes
among students of the University of Granada, with the intention of nding
a correlation between creativity and synesthesia, while also seeking to reveal
common features amongst synesthetic personalities. The results have been
presented at various international congresses held in Almería and Granada
(Andalusia, Spain), which have been held every two years since 2005, thanks
to the International Foundation Artecittà and the universities of Granada and
I wish to review some of the results that were presented at the last
congress of 2012, held at the University of Almeria, as well as their
educational applications at the University of Granada, in the Faculty of Fine
Arts, both at the graduate and post-graduate levels, because they are proving
to be effective and enlightening.
We start with the rst results obtained in the surveys from 2006 to
2009. These data reinforce the idea that synesthesia is very real perception-
related sensory and cognitive processes that might be tentatively considered
as “multi-modal thinking”. The connection between perception–creativity,
language and synesthesia–was unveiled as the main thing to study in art
education. The population group was from 18 to 36 years old, a small
group which could not provide reliable results, for this reason we decided
to increase the survey pool to get a larger number of possible synesthetes for
studying and testing, in order to acquire other data and verify the supposed
characteristics of synesthete personalities, types of synesthesia, its impact
on learning, formation of concepts and its potential to advance creative
development. This was also intended to generate new methodologies or
teaching approaches through synesthesia that can enable and enhance holistic
creative thinking.
Then I will present a summary of the work outlined in the Fourth
International Congress of Synaesthesia, Science and Art 2012, which can be
found in full in the published proceedings book and other literature.
[W]ith the sharing of results and new approaches, new lines
of research open; retaking early studies and reviewing the literature
found from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is
curious that scientic approaches already existed on this condition
but were not well known to this day. There were even authors,
very little known, such as Mercante (1910), who was concerned
with teaching methods and experimental psychology which were
closely related to synesthesia. Already at that time, he wrote about
verbocromía and synesthesia cases found among his students.
182 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
Therefore, what we are doing now is reviving studies started centuries
ago (the above is just one example); and now we can understand better thanks
to new technological tools and the tendency to recognize the communion and
interdisciplinary collaboration between the different “sciences” as the best
way to reveal the mysteries that conne the brain when it perceives the world
and when one “thinks”, mixing one’s senses or sensory forces.
“Revisions and new research contributions concerning synesthesia also
get echoed in the press and audiovisual media in making documentaries,
newspaper articles, in book publishing, and organization of courses
and workshops on ‘synesthesia, art and creativity’ that the International
Foundation Artecittà organizes, getting the attention of large numbers
of people, such as teachers, departments, centers of art.” This activity leads
to many people in the general public recognizing themselves as synesthetes,
so the percentage of them increases each year. In addition, it leads to the
realization that this study is very necessary in any eld of education, not
only in neuroscience, experimental psychology or other cognitive sciences,
or in the artistic / musical or literary elds.
In 2009, as a lecturer at the Department of Drawing at the University
of Granada, I proposed an innovation project aimed to implement educational
knowledge of synesthesia and creativity, introducing new methodological
units with a view to tapping into potential originality and possible synesthetic
abilities among students in the Faculty of Fine Arts. The project was
implemented in collaboration with other teachers both at the Department
of Experimental Psychology and Drawing and Educational Sciences of the
University of Granada. Our initiative of acquainting our students with and
informing them about current studies regarding synesthesia, and having
them participate in the exploration generated such an interest that it has
even become the subject of research in many of their nal course projects
or Masters’ theses, the latter being mostly on drawing production and
popularization. Some of these students were discovered to be synesthetes and
used this information to investigate themselves and their artistic production.”
Today, they are already achieving success in their own artistic synesthetic
productions based on synesthesia.
I think “natural synesthesia”, possibly, comes into play in each of the
perceptual processes, cognitive processes and generated concepts about
visible reality, which is felt and expressed. There are sufcient reasons, I can
say, that certain unconscious perceptual processes are intimately linked to
synesthetic experiences or constitute the source of many of the so-called low-
intensity synesthesias and ideaesthesias or experiences similar to synesthesia.
We now know that ideaesthesia is very common; one can say that 99% of the
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
population experience it in its most unconscious form. The concepts we form
throughout our development and learning are steeped in multiple sensations
of color, shape, taste, touch and emotions, being as a “whole” indivisible.
We can recall the studies on the relationships between sound, color, form,
image, and concepts, conducted by Michael Haverkamp (2009), or similar
ideas outlined by myself in the early years of my research about synesthesia,
in 2005 (not to mention, of course, the well-known educational methods
developed at the Bauhaus). This leads us to think directly of processes
of development of our multiple intelligences and teaching methods that,
however, were not without gaps and errors, which makes them short of being
conducive to creating innovative and creative minds. It seems that now there
is a more serious interest since, more and more, it is known how we think,
how we build and how we create and generate our “ideas”.
We do know that there are genetic components that may cause one
to “inherit” the possibility of having vivid synesthesia, so to speak,
in a conscious way, or we get to keep those early childhood interconnections
between different brain areas, and that there is evidence about the relationship
between creativity and synesthesia. “In one of the recently published articles
summarising what we know of synesthesia and characteristics of people
with synesthesia, authored by V. Ramachandran and D. Brang, we nd the
following passage:
However, the nature of the link between synesthesia and creativity
(including metaphor) remains elusive given that synesthesia
involves arbitrarily connecting two unrelated things (e.g., color and
number), whereas there is a non- arbitrary conceptual connection
between, say, Juliet and the sun (of Romeo and Juliet). One potential
solution to this problem comes from realizing that any given
word has only a nite set of associations (e.g., the sun is warm,
nurturing, radiant, bright, etc.). The overlapping region among
halos of associations between two words (e.g., Juliet and the sun;
both are radiant, warm, and nurturing)—the basis of metaphor—
exists in all of us but is larger and stronger in synesthesia as a result
of the cross-activation gene; in this formulation synesthesia is not
synonymous with metaphor, but only that the gene which produces
synesthesia confers a propensity towards metaphor. While the link
between synesthesia and creativity has received remarkable interest
over the last decade, research has not yet directly demonstrated any
causal relationship between the two and so the argument, at this
point, remains seductive and compelling but not conclusive.
184 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
But what interests me in this review is part of the conclusions that
the authors come to in their work that we ourselves discovered during the
development of our teaching innovation project:
[…] In summary, synesthesia is a highly heritable phenomenon
that is associated with numerous benets to cognitive processing,
potentially underscoring a basis for why this condition has survived
evolutionary pressures. Research into synesthesia is now passing
its bicentennial anniversary in science, and understanding both
the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon and the reasons for
its selection are nally at a point in which synesthesia can inform
our understanding of cognitive and perceptual processes in the
general population. To appropriately understand this condition
and its relation to normal cognition will require both technically
and intellectually diverse contributions from all areas of biology.
In sum, this research suggests that synesthesia, far from being
a ‘‘fringe’ phenomenon as formerly believed (or that it is purely
‘‘conceptual’ or associative in nature), can give us vital clues
toward understanding some of the physiological mechanisms
underlying some of the most elusive yet cherished aspects of the
human mind (Brang and Ramachandran 2011).
The question then would be: “Is synesthesia a sensory phenomenon,
a cognitive-conceptual phenomenon, or both? And also, are there limits that
separate the experiences of synesthesia and non-synesthetic experiences?
And if so, are these limits clear or fuzzy?”, to quote Professor Larry Marks’
similar ideas (2012/2009).
In the surveys we have conducted, we have found that there is an
important component in such perceptions of vivid synesthesia that may have
been previously overlooked: consciousness and attention.
Why do the participants in these courses and surveys realize these
perceptions and mixing of senses only when they have been informed
of them? Were they not aware of them before that? Would they not have
paid enough attention so far? Or is it that they “imagine” them now, once
Evidence of the prevalence in the general population of common
associations between shapes, colors and sounds is very strong, which
suggests that these associations / mixtures or linkages among concepts,
sounds, shapes and colors are produced from an unconscious level, since
cognitive processes and language development were already present long
before all that development in a collective unconscious, since man is man.
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
This is demonstrated in some of the experiments on primates (similar to
human relations) who display correspondences between color and sound,
as we can see, for example, in the research by Ludwig et al. (2011).
This is quite similar to what we found in experiments conducted
in 2000 on the same topic concerning matches between sound and color
in synesthetic and non-synesthetic people, that was presented at the Second
International Congress on Synaesthesia, Science & Art, Granada, 2007
(Mª José De Córdoba Serrano 2007).
We carry out activities and workshops for students of Fine Arts, during
which we are trying to nd answers, to observe and analyze. In these
activities, we consider this type of crossing of the senses – we can call them
“natural” or unconscious – attracting the interest of students and participants
in their own perceptual multimodal intersensorial processes, allowing usage
in creative artistic developments.
We also report on our investigations, studies and theories of synesthesia.
We propose participatory workshops: related to the topics of music,
painting, and the synesthetic / kinesthetic body as vehicles to explore their
creative capabilities. And we gave the students three tests: a simple poll
on synesthesia, one on creative originality and another on neuro-linguistic
programming (NLP).
According to the results we obtained and analyzed, we can clearly
differentiate between those who experience vivid synesthesia and others who
have ideaesthesias or conceptual synesthesia. We sometimes nd projective
synesthesia, but rarely, in a small percentage.
For those who have sound/color and music/color types of synesthesia,
and for the rest to take advantage of the course, “Draw the music: incomplete
map of sound memories”, (a course offered by the Department of Drawing
at the University of Granada in collaboration with the University of Cadiz,
who organized the Spanish music festivals of Cadiz of which the course
is a part), we have participating students focus on their audio / visual (colors
and shapes) perceptions through drawing. This experience brought about
other activities, research and very interesting artistic productions that helped
reveal how students exploit and develop their artistic potentials spurred by
these new methodologies that are based on synesthesia and creativity.
186 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
Image 2. IX Spanish Music Festival of Cadiz, 20011. “White Night”. Painting Live
From these experiences arise groups of student / artists developing
multidisciplinary activities using the concept synesthesia for performances,
as a “total work of art”, where dance, music, live painting, and creative
improvisations are the components of these works with a common link:
In our surveys of possible synesthetes, we considered the following
issues and reections:
Preliminary issues:
1. How can we know if creativity, intelligence, and training of the
individual can really be facilitated by this condition, depending
on whether he or she is or is not a synesthete?;
2. What relation does the concept of “multiple intelligences” have with
3. What about the originality / creativity or NLP?
1. A pluralistic view of the mind, intelligence conceived as dynamic,
as the ability to solve problems or make products that are valuable
in a particular cultural context.
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
2. However, the propagation of homogenization of intelligence types
in students through uniform mass education is a problem that does not
allow the recognition of the diversity of human cognitive potentials
whereby each individual has his or her own way of organizing, coding,
interpreting and appropriating (apprehending) information.
Gardner (1983/2011) and the followers of his theory believe that
“human beings have evolved to exhibit several intelligences and not to draw
variously on one exible intelligence” (Gardner 2011, p. xxx).
To answer these questions, we need to elaborate on the study of synesthetes
and those with signs of experiencing synesthesia, further analyzing the
results we obtained. We are in this work to develop the fundamentals of this
science, which still needs the collaboration of researchers from other areas
of knowledge so that, once the results of these studies, analysis and research
are pooled together, we can draw more reliable conclusions applicable to the
eld of teaching.
Our goals are:
To dene the concept of synesthesia in a rigorously scientic manner
and reveal its impact on the study of the basic principles of psychology
(perceptual development, attention, cognition, memory, creativity,
language, personality) and its application in training teachers.
To apply these data about the peculiarities found in the different aspects
of synesthesia in relation to each (interdisciplinary) area of knowledge
that include the following:
– Neurology
– Psychology
– Psychiatry.
– Linguistics
– Education
– Literature
– Art
– Music
Outline: Fieldwork
• Simple survey test of possible synesthetes.
Relationship with originality / creativity (Finke test) and its system
of sensory representation (NLP).
The type of test used regarding creativity is based on studies by Roland
Finke using creative visualization, mental imagery, and originality. (In our
188 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
experiment, we considered this as comparable to imaginative invention).
We presented simple geometric shapes, letters or numbers which must be
mentally combined to form a recognizable gure, which should also be named
via a name / term dening it. We measured the time it takes to complete the
test with at least one minute allowed for each combination of forms. We also
asked the participants for their assessment, more or less, as to the degree they
liked the outcome (a score of 5 equals the highest score, a 1 the lowest score).
We analyzed nine groups of respondents (in Granada, 500 individuals).
We consider as valid for analysis a total of 316 people, of which 168 are
possible synesthetes and 51 show less indicative signs of the condition.
The ages are between 17 and 50 years.
Graph 1. Percentages of possible synesthetes in 9 groups (a total of 316 people)
The groups are students from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University
of Granada, the School of Communication Studies ESCO, the Toledo School
for the Arts, and those participating in the summer courses of the years 2008,
2010 and 2011.
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
The identied types are:
Table1. Results as per types of synesthesia
As can be seen, there is a high percentage with the possibility of having
vivid synesthesia, and if we add to this percentage (33.6%) that of those
presenting evidence (10.2%), the total number rises even further. This
is a lot, if we compare this with other studies from the United States or
England, where only 4% of the population is demonstrated to be possible
synesthetes (Simner et al. 2006). The most common category found in our
study is also music / sound to color, followed by gender- / personality-based
and spatiotemporal synesthesias.
As we continued to investigate the most common sound to color type,
we devised a computer “online” application, a basic upgradeable test, for
this category, adding texture and voice. This was an attempt to nd possible
Spanish-speaking synesthetes. This year, we have received test results
of about 1000 people from Spanish-speaking countries (Venezuela, Mexico,
Ecuador, and Spain, among others) identifying themselves as having this
type of synesthesia. These participants will be tested again to make sure their
answers / choices are consistent. If such is the case, we can conclude that
their “associations or correspondences” are real.
190 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
Graph 2. Percentages of types of synesthesia discovered in the 9 investigated groups
Graph 3. Percentages of NLP found in 9 groups
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
We are still searching for a system of sensory representation of synesthesia
types found in 11% of the potential synesthetes in the present study. There
is a possibility that they just use synesthesia-related language.
Graph 4. Percentages regarding synesthesia and creativity
Table 2. Synesthesia, sensory representations in the NLP systems and creativity
Regarding the results of our research into the relations between originality
/ creativity and synesthesia, 27% of those surveyed had a greater capacity
than the remaining participants, but 73% had the same results as the creative
non-synesthetes. These data reinforce the results of our polls in the previous
years: people who showed signs of having synesthesia are all creative but
not to an extent exceeding creative non-synesthetes, although we found no
192 M. José De Córdoba Serrano
synesthetes presenting a low level of creativity. Therefore, we can conclude
that both psychological traits share some common brain processing systems.
We have seen throughout this summary of activities, workshops, courses
and surveys that the population of possible synesthetes is greater than we
could imagine, perhaps because it is conceptual synesthesia that is the most
common type, or it is characteristically close to ideaesthesia. The vivid or
high level synesthesias are also shown to be at a higher percentage than
Making students and other participants conscious of such experiences
(aware of possible sensory correspondences as a method to activate their
creative possibilities) has proven to be a very productive tool. Beyond the
importance of discovering that synesthesia is not so “rare”, we nd it more
interesting that educational methodologies which have as their core the concept
of synesthesia awaken skills and attitudes “hidden” in the students. They are
motivated and, therefore, embark on developing their multiple intelligences.
With regard to the students of Fine Arts, from different courses and levels,
they respond with enthusiasm and curiosity, which helps them improve their
artistic production. We believe that innovation in teaching methodologies
applicable to the overall development of the student is important.
Currently, we continue collecting data to analyze in depth, contrasting
these with those data collected in previous years. In my opinion, the
unconscious acquisition and cognitive processes that are already automatic
could explain some of the very common conceptual synesthesias and
ideaesthesias. The characteristics attributed to synesthetic personalities are
still not too clear.
Regarding the teaching innovation project and my experience teaching
drawing, where I conduct a course on synesthesia (“Scientic approach to
the interdisciplinary study of synesthesia”), within the scope of drawing,
production and distribution, the results have been optimal. Students get to
expand their eld of vision and conduct research projects on synesthesia and
art, some at the highest level. At the same time, they introduce other lines
of research in design, advertising and synesthesia, or other areas of expertise,
such as in teaching of artistic expression and education. All approaches
generate new knowledge and help to open up new resources that enhance and
clarify aspects of empowerment and optimization of creative and innovative
capacities, both in teachers and in students. For all these reasons, we continue
Why study synesthesia? What can that teach us about ourselves?
our studies and surveys in the hope of forming a “corpus” and foundation
of the “science” of synesthesia.
In 2005, we set off building up – and we have actually built the
theoretic aspects of a mathematical model of synesthetic sensory
processes, towards which it is necessary to continue the survey of possible
synesthetes in different social spheres and of different ages. This project
in which we are currently engaged, will allow us to pool a larger group and
number of individuals who will be able to implement the necessary studies.
These brief notes about research which we want to bring to fruition may give
a slightly better sense of the importance and size of the investigation into the
natural condition that we are just beginning to understand. Of course, it is
philosophy that provides an unrestrained perspective to discuss the “being”
of synesthesia.
Asher, Julian E., Michael R. F. Aitken, Nasr Farooqi, Sameer Kurmani and Simon
Baron-Cohen. 2006. “Diagnosing and phenotyping visual synaesthesia:
a preliminary evaluation of the revised test of genuineness (TOG-R).” Cortex
42.2: 137–146.
Asher, Julian E., Janine A. Lamb, Denise Brocklebank, Jean-Baptiste Cazier, Elena
Maestrini, Laura Addis, Mallika Sen, Simon Baron-Cohen and Anthony
P. Monaco. 2009. “A whole-genome scan and ne-mapping linkage study
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Title: "SYNESTHESIA SOUND/IMAGE/COLOR- Proposal for the study of a mathematical model of the processes synesthetics- an INTERDISCIPLINARY PROJECT". (Anthropological sociological, artistic, didactic, psychological, neurocientífic and technological aspects) -- Introduction to a summary of results obtained via investigation and personal synesthetic experiences, and a scientific approach to its physical and mathematical aspects. SUMMARY: A brief description of an investigation derived and related to artistic work, where synesthesia is experienced in the sound/colour category, mainly, creating a central problem, and a search of synesthetics answers in other peoples investigations and products. Das The eidetic images induced by sound synesthetically, or pseudosynesthetically, of low, average and high intensity? The results investigations made in these last ten years suggest that, at the base of our creativity, a certain synesthetic capacity lies that confirms, partly, the conclusions arrived at in my 1988 personal investigation. The mystery that is generated around this capacity takes us to the necessity for an interdisciplinary study, and its analysis to continuous reframing of approaches to these studies. The confusions that our cerebral activities experience in the global perception of the world, which have shot down the little that we know from the Aristotelian approach to the study of the senses, create other points of reflection regarding their importance in the beginning of human Actas del II Congreso Internacional de Sinestesia, Ciencia y Arte 2007. Granada, España. Fundación Internacional Artecittà knowledge of the world or epistemology, like an aspect of existential philosophy. Here, we will reflect more between SYNESTHESIA and ART, from a more scientific than artistic plane, in attempt to make this investigation necessarily more interdisciplinary. Also, we look for the possible physical correspondence between light and sound waves (with the aid of experts in electronic physics), a correlation of mathematical values, and whether these values are perceived by the people who have this condition
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Synesthesia is a perceptual experience in which stimuli presented through one modality will spontaneously evoke sensations in an unrelated modality. The condition occurs from increased communication between sensory regions and is involuntary, automatic, and stable over time. While synesthesia can occur in response to drugs, sensory deprivation, or brain damage, research has largely focused on heritable variants comprising roughly 4% of the general population. Genetic research on synesthesia suggests the phenomenon is heterogeneous and polygenetic, yet it remains unclear whether synesthesia ever provided a selective advantage or is merely a byproduct of some other useful selected trait. Progress in uncovering the genetic basis of synesthesia will help us understand why synesthesia has been conserved in the population.
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In this article, the authors introduce a new theoretical framework for understanding intersensory development. Their approach is based upon insights gained from adults who experience synesthesia, in whom sensory stimuli induce extra cross-modal or intramodal percepts. Synesthesia appears to represent one way that typical developmental mechanisms can play out by magnifying connections present in early life that are pruned and/or inhibited during development but persist in muted form in all adults. As such, the study of synesthesia provides valuable insights into the nature of intersensory development. The authors review evidence on the perceptual reality and neural basis of synesthesia, then summarize developmental models and evidence that its underlying mechanisms are universal in adults. They illustrate how evidence for consistent sensory associations in adults leads to predictions about toddlers' perception and present 3 bodies of work that have confirmed those hypotheses. They end by describing novel hypotheses about intersensory development that arise from this framework. Such intersensory associations appear to reflect intrinsic sensory cortical organization that influences the development of perception and of language and that may constrain the learning of environmentally based associations.
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Sensory and cognitive mechanisms allow stimuli to be perceived with properties relating to sight, sound, touch, etc, and ensure, for example, that visual properties are perceived as visual experiences, rather than sounds, tastes, smells, etc. Theories of normal development can be informed by cases where this modularity breaks down, in a condition known as synaesthesia. Conventional wisdom has held that this occurs extremely rarely (0.05% of births) and affects women more than men. Here we present the first test of synaesthesia prevalence with sampling that does not rely on self-referral, and which uses objective tests to establish genuineness. We show that (a) the prevalence of synaesthesia is 88 times higher than previously assumed, (b) the most common variant is coloured days, (c) the most studied variant (grapheme-colour synaesthesia)--previously believed most common--is prevalent at 1%, and (d) there is no strong asymmetry in the distribution of synaesthesia across the sexes. Hence, we suggest that female biases reported earlier likely arose from (or were exaggerated by) sex differences in self-disclosure.
Advisor: Martin Sharp. Paper (M. Ed.)--Pennsylvania State University, Great Valley, 1995.
Humans share implicit preferences for certain cross-sensory combinations; for example, they consistently associate higher-pitched sounds with lighter colors, smaller size, and spikier shapes. In the condition of synesthesia, people may experience such cross-modal correspondences to a perceptual degree (e.g., literally seeing sounds). So far, no study has addressed the question whether nonhuman animals share cross-modal correspondences as well. To establish the evolutionary origins of cross-modal mappings, we tested whether chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) also associate higher pitch with higher luminance. Thirty-three humans and six chimpanzees were required to classify black and white squares according to their color while hearing irrelevant background sounds that were either high-pitched or low-pitched. Both species performed better when the background sound was congruent (high-pitched for white, low-pitched for black) than when it was incongruent (low-pitched for white, high-pitched for black). An inherent tendency to pair high pitch with high luminance hence evolved before the human lineage split from that of chimpanzees. Rather than being a culturally learned or a linguistic phenomenon, this mapping constitutes a basic feature of the primate sensory system.
Synesthesia, a neurological condition affecting between 0.05%-1% of the population, is characterized by anomalous sensory perception and associated alterations in cognitive function due to interference from synesthetic percepts. A stimulus in one sensory modality triggers an automatic, consistent response in either another modality or a different aspect of the same modality. Familiality studies show evidence of a strong genetic predisposition; whereas initial pedigree analyses supported a single-gene X-linked dominant mode of inheritance with a skewed F:M ratio and a notable absence of male-to-male transmission, subsequent analyses in larger samples indicated that the mode of inheritance was likely to be more complex. Here, we report the results of a whole-genome linkage scan for auditory-visual synesthesia with 410 microsatellite markers at 9.05 cM density in 43 multiplex families (n = 196) with potential candidate regions fine-mapped at 5 cM density. Using NPL and HLOD analysis, we identified four candidate regions. Significant linkage at the genome-wide level was detected to chromosome 2q24 (HLOD = 3.025, empirical genome-wide p = 0.047). Suggestive linkage was found to chromosomes 5q33, 6p12, and 12p12. No support was found for linkage to the X chromosome; furthermore, we have identified two confirmed cases of male-to-male transmission of synesthesia. Our results demonstrate that auditory-visual synesthesia is likely to be an oligogenic disorder subject to multiple modes of inheritance and locus heterogeneity. This study comprises a significant step toward identifying the genetic substrates underlying synesthesia, with important implications for our understanding of the role of genes in human cognition and perception.
Synaesthesia, a neurological condition affecting approximately .05% of the population, is characterised by anomalous sensory perception: a stimulus in one sensory modality triggers an automatic, instantaneous, consistent response in another modality (e.g., sound evokes colour) or in a different aspect of the same modality (e.g., black text evokes colour). As evidence was limited to case studies based on self-report, the existence of synaesthesia was regarded with scepticism until the development of the Test of Genuineness (TOG) in 1987, which measures the consistency of stimulus-response linkage: synaesthetes typically score between 70-90% range, whereas controls typically score between 20-38%. However, the TOG had only limited ability to quantify the characteristics of visual synaesthesia. In this study, the revised Test of Genuineness (TOG-R), utilising the Pantone-based Cambridge Synaesthesia Charts, was given to 26 synaesthetes and 23 controls. Results confirmed that the TOG-R is equally accurate in the diagnosis of synaesthesia; synaesthetes scored significantly (t47 = 16.01, p < .001) higher (mean = 71.3%, SEM = 1.4%) than controls (mean = 33%, SEM = 2.0%). The TOG-R provides greater precision in quantifying the closeness of colour matches and enables a more detailed analysis of visual synaesthesia. Synaesthetes were phenotyped into broad- and narrowband based on their overall responsiveness to auditory stimuli, with bandwidth determined primarily by responsiveness to non-word stimuli. They were further sub-phenotyped based on responses to sub-groups of stimuli into word-colour (WC) and music-colour (MC). Development of this instrument has important implications for the diagnosis and phenotyping of visual synaesthesia.
Los colores no existen
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