Synesthesia Definition – We explain what synesthesia is as a perceptual condition and what types exist. Also, synesthesia is an artistic resource and example.
Synesthesia is not a disease or mental disorder, but a rare neurological condition in which more than one of a person’s senses start working together. Or when one sense gets excited, the other also gets affected, hence their way of looking at things is completely different from normal.
A person suffering from synaesthesia starts seeing a particular color while listening to music or associates the taste of food with its shape and texture like round, pointed, etc. Researchers do not yet know clearly how common synaesthesia is.
According to a study conducted in 2006, only 2 to 4 percent of people are victims of this condition. From this, you can imagine how rare it is. Although synaesthesia does not cause any harm, yes, if you start talking about colors while listening to music among many people, then the person in front will feel strange.
What is Synesthesia?
Synesthesia is a non-pathological condition of human perception, which consists of the ability to involuntarily and automatically experience an additional sense when faced with a specific sensory stimulus, that is, to jointly perceive two senses when faced with the same specific stimulus. This is a genetic condition whose origins are not fully known yet.
It is not that the senses are intermingled, but rather that when perceiving a specific stimulus (for example, a tactile sensation) some other stimulus is also activated (for example, the perception of a color).
Thus, synesthetic people can perceive a caress through touch and at the same time through sight, by feeling it with the skin and also seeing a color associated with said stimulus, or even perceiving a specific sound along with the caress, or a certain taste. in the tongue.
The first description of synesthesia in history occurred in 1812, recorded by Dr. Georg Tobias Ludwig Sachs (1786-1814), and since then it has been found mostly in autistic people or people with special features. It is known to occur in approximately one person in every 100, that is, around 1% of the world’s population.
Types of synesthesia
There are three main forms of synesthesia:
- Lexical-gustatory synesthesia consists of the perception of certain flavors when a specific word is pronounced.
- Grapheme-color synesthesia, which consists of the direct association of a written sign (letters, numbers) as a specific color or shade thereof.
- Music-color synesthesia consists of the perception of a certain color during certain musical passages, especially regarding the timbre or frequency of the sound.
Examples of Synesthesia
If you have synaesthesia, you may notice that many of your senses combine to add a new dimension to the way you see the world. Perhaps every time you chew a bite of food, you feel geometric shapes like round, pointed, square, etc., whereas normal people feel tastes like sweet, spicy, salty, etc.
That is, the perspective of a person suffering from synesthesia becomes completely different. Maybe when you feel emotional towards the person you love, you may see many colors in front of you when you close your eyes.
Maybe when you’re reading something out loud, you can add emphasis to each word or sentence and speak as if you were talking to a person standing on the street. All these examples show that a person is suffering from synesthesia.
What are the causes of synesthesia?
Synesthesia is congenital or develops at a very young age. According to research, it can also be genetic.
Your five senses stimulate different parts of the brain. For example, when you look at a bright neon yellow wall, the primary visual cortex will respond to color and light, but if you have synaesthesia, you may feel that you can taste the color when you look at the wall.
So not only was your primary visual cortex stimulated by color, but your parietal lobe, which tells you what something tastes like, was also stimulated. This is why researchers believe that people who have synaesthesia have high levels of interconnectedness in the parts of the brain that are tied to sensory stimulation.
Some substances may cause you to temporarily get synesthesia. Using psychedelic drugs can heighten and connect your sensory experiences. Some drugs, including mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD, have been studied to enhance this experience, but cannabis, alcohol, and even caffeine are also known to cause temporary synaesthesia.
What are the symptoms of synesthesia?
There are many types of synesthesia and the symptoms of each type of synesthesia are different. Grapheme-color synaesthesia, in which you associate letters and the day of the week with colors, is probably the most popular, but there are many other types of synaesthesia, like sound-to-color synaesthesia, number-form synaesthesia, etc. You may have one type of synaesthesia or a combination of more than one.
People who have any type of synaesthesia usually experience the following symptoms:
- Such sensations that are not under your control i.e. they cross between the senses (tasting shapes, hearing colors, etc.)
- Sensory triggers that cause frequent and predictable interactions between the senses (e.g., you see red every time you see the letter A).
- Telling people about your strange experiences
- If you have synaesthesia, you may be left-handed and have a strong interest in visual arts and music. Synesthesia appears to be more common in women than men.
Synesthesia as an artistic resource
In the world of art, the term synesthesia is reserved for certain types of stylistic and expressive resources, such as rhetorical figures, in which the impressions traditionally associated with a certain meaning are sought to be mixed with others, in a novel way, to obtain a much more original and expressive result.
It is a type of metaphor, present in literature since classical times, and of enormous presence in Spanish baroque and French symbolism, as well as in Latin American modernism.
Expressions such as “sounding ivory” or “sweet blues” are examples of first-degree synesthesia: the impression of two different bodily sensations directly; while others such as “bitter melancholy” or “bitter wait” constitute a case of second-degree synesthesia, which combines a bodily sense and an idea or an object, that is, it composes its image indirectly.
Some examples of synesthesia in literature are the following:
- In the verses of Juan Ramón Jiménez: “through the greenery tinged with melodious gold” or “in the blue zenith, a pink caress.”
- In the verses of Francisco de Quevedo: “I listen to the dead with my eyes.”
- In the prose of Luis Cernuda: “A delicious aroma then emerged, and the rainwater collected in the hollow of your hand had the flavor of that aroma.”
- In the verses of Joan Manuel Serrat: “Your name tastes like grass to me.”
- In the verses of Rubén Darío: “Hail to the celestial sonorous sun!” or “From our sad minds the dark ideas.”