What color is the number three? What does red taste like? What does Vivaldi on the violin smell like? If you can answer these questions, there’s a chance you have synesthesia.
Synesthesia is a neurological condition where information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of them instead. In simpler terms, your five senses blend. Synesthetes, or people with synesthesia, commonly “hear” colors, “see” sounds, or “taste” textures like “pointy” or “round.”
A 2006 study showed that about 2 to 4 percent of the population has synesthesia. Synesthetes can be born with the condition or develop it during the early stages of childhood. New research indicates that it can be genetically inherited, too.
Some substances like LSD can cause you to temporarily experience synesthesia-like symptoms. Common stimulants, like alcohol, cannabis, or excessive caffeine, can have also have synesthesia-like effects.
There are many types of synesthesia, but the most well-known is grapheme-color synesthesia. This occurs when a synesthete connects numbers, shapes, letters, names, or even days of the week with a certain color. Other common types include sound-to-color synesthesia and number-form synesthesia. This condition is more common in women, left-handed people, musicians, and artists.
Although there is no treatment for synesthesia, most synesthetes take advantage of ittheir synesthesia and enjoy seeing the world through a different lens than others do. Some synesthetes have an extremely difficult time trying to explain their sensory experiences, though. Luckily, there are some ways to ease the often-lonely feeling these differences can invoke. Speaking with other synesthetes or seeking out a mental health professionals are the two of the best options.
Kanye West, Pharell Williams, Mary J. Blige, and Lorde are all musical artists with synesthesia. Their ability to “hear” and “read” color adds unique elements to their music that most people do not notice. Vincent van Gogh and Duke Ellington may also have had synesthesia.
I first discovered I had synesthesia after reading a paper my cousin wrote. He described how having synesthesia helped him memorize formulas in math and science. Like me, he has grapheme-color synesthesia and sound-to-color synesthesia. We both came to the consensus that our synesthesia helps us in many aspects of our lives. Since we are both musicians (he plays piano and I play violin), we both associate notes, rhythms, pieces, and genres with specific colors. For example, the C major scale is a fiery orange for me, and an A-flat arpeggio is a deep, dark purple.
For further information on synesthesia, including a synesthesia test, check out the links below:
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