Have you ever thought the yellow candy you pulled out of your bag tasted like lemon, the orange colored candy tasted like orange, and the red tasted like cherry, but in fact, they were all the same flavor? Our senses often influence each other to some degree. Everyone has some sort of cross-sensory. But if the cross-sensory is too great, it is a condition called synaesthesia.
Synaesthesia is a condition in which different senses are blended or fused together. There are many different types of synaesthesia, too many to list. Some synaesthetes see colors when they listen to music, or taste food when they see certain colors. Synaesthetes often grow up not knowing they have this disease, they assume everyone else also perceives the world that way. Only about one percent of all adults are affected by this condition.
Synaesthesia is said to be inherited genetically. Although synaesthesia is affected by environmental factors, it also runs in the family. Researchers have traced that Synaesthesia could possibly be linked with a region on chromosome 2 which is often associated with autism. This region is also associated with epilepsy. Other regions researchers have located are on chromosomes 5,6 and 12 which are involved with the way the brain structures itself and the regulation of neural activity.
Although Synaesthesia can enhance one's memory significantly, it can also distract one from learning. Often times when students with Synaesthesia work in a noisy classroom, they will see colors or taste foods while in class. Some Synaesthetes are confused when they read because the letters they read often get mixed up with the colors they see.
In Elizabeth Sulser's case, her memory is so phenomenal that after hearing a list of fifteen words, she can remember fourteen of those words half an hour later. She is able to remember most of these words because she links certain colors to the letters. Sulser, from Zurich, Switzerland, is a 29 year old synaesthete who links sound, sight and taste together. Sulser sees certain colors when she hears music notes and tastes specific flavors when she hears musical intervals. Because of her unique combination of related senses, she has an incredible memory. Sulser is a musician who can play the perfect note due to her unique abilities and memorize a score of music just by looking at it once.
Sulser first discovered her relation of the senses was not normal when she was eating outdoors with her friend. It began to rain. As each droplet of rain fell on the table, she heard multiple musical notes. With each note, she saw a different color. After noticing this, she asked her friend if she was saw colors also. Her friend began to think she was strange. Like many other Synaesthetes, Sulser did not realize she was different until others around her appeared not to see, hear, or taste things. When she first tasted flavors on her tongue, she was afraid she had a mental disorder because no one else she knew had these capabilities. She felt isolated and lonely because nobody could share her same feelings. Later, at the University College London, Sulser met other people like her who had Synaesthesia.
Synaesthesia is an extraordinary condition that is extremely rare. Many researchers are still exploring its roots and origins. Nobody fully understands the causes of this strange disease. No one knows the ultimate effects Synaesthesia has on one's health.
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