May 11, 2003

Your Vowels are Vermillion

The phenomenon of senesthesia has always fascinated me. The word first came into public use during the LSD era, when our college roommates were tasting music and hearing the clouds. Remember? My interest was piqued as I read about this condition of fused sensations, not fully accepted as 'real' at the time, because it seemed to me that there might be some way in which 'normal' non-senesthetes employed this cross-wiring in a creative way, while not overtly manifesting the true 'symptoms' of seeing numbers in colors, for instance.

My suspicions are (tentatively) confirmed by this (multi-page) article from Scientific American, that includes the following excerpt:

Our insights into the neurological basis of synesthesia could help explain some of the creativity of painters, poets and novelists. According to one study, the condition is seven times as common in creative people as in the general population.

One skill that many creative people share is a facility for using metaphor ("It is the east, and Juliet is the sun"). It is as if their brains are set up to make links between seemingly unrelated domains--such as the sun and a beautiful young woman. In other words, just as synesthesia involves making arbitrary links between seemingly unrelated perceptual entities such as colors and numbers, metaphor involves making links between seemingly unrelated conceptual realms. Perhaps this is not just a coincidence.

What's more, this condition tends to run in families, suggesting there is a genetic source that "could lead to both synesthesia and to a propensity toward linking seemingly unrelated concepts and ideas--in short, creativity. This would explain why the apparently useless synesthesia gene has survived in the population".

Picture yourself in a boat on a river With tangerine trees and marmalade skies Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she's gone

Like PsYcHeDeLiC, Man!

Posted by fred1st at May 11, 2003 06:35 AM | TrackBack

Been there, done that. Kinda miss it today.

Posted by: Acidman at May 11, 2003 05:29 PM

hmmmm...maybe this is why I can't answer the question about my first memories.

Posted by: feste at May 13, 2003 12:51 PM

Heck! Some of us can't tell colors apart, let alone discern the color of F-sharp above middle C.

Posted by: Cop Car at May 13, 2003 10:12 PM

I have a problem with remembering maritime on-the-water numbered markers. In the real world, the red markers have even numbers and green ones have odd numbers, but I only think odd numbers when I see red and even when I see green. I can't get this out of my head, and have come to know that when trying to recall this field of numbers that whatever I think, it will be the opposite. I have noticed the problem now for 10-15 years, but only recently when teaching boating skills has it become clear that I must have a form of synesthesia. To try and divorce the red from odd and green from even numbers, it is almost painful to a point that if I continue to concentrate on it, my ears actually start hurting.

Posted by: Annette Cook at August 7, 2004 11:29 AM

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