Thursday, March 14, 2013


For years I've been obsessed with neuroscience, brain science, Einstein's Unified Field Theory, quantum physics, dark matter, metaphysics, the origin of consciousness, Jet Propulsion Laboratory CalTech NASA JPL, Mars Curiosity (I love Curiosity!)  the possibility of extraterrestrial life. I also am into unexplained phenomena and the paranormal. Read my upcoming blog on Art Bell and the strange Nevada site where he reigned for years via a radio signal that created the fantastic late night show "Coast to Coast AM." (I know, I know, this show can be very silly, and honestly I do not believe in Big Foot! Tee hee hee, hahaha. There are a lot of conspiracy theories on this show, including Chem Trails, which I don't actually believe in either. By now, there should be some outrage on a massive scale. But time will tell. I actually believe our thoughts create our reality, and this is an amazing way to live life. What you fear will own you. Fear is "False Evidence Appearing Real." What you focus on grows. Withdraw your attention from your enemies and they will expire from neglect. This is the metaphysical secret of the ancients and the "Christ" truth which is LOVE. Love casts out fear.  

On Science Channel they are finally talking about Synesthesia, which I've always had, but never knew the name for it. I thought everyone had it.  Maybe you have it too. Do you see letters and numbers in color? Do you smell shapes and taste colors? 
My son and I argue over our colors. I have always seen letters and numbers in color and shapes, very specific. For example, Sunday is tall and "root-beer-colored" like a tall rectangle or monolith (2001: A Space Odyssey)  Saturday is equally tall, and white. Monday is always yellow, so every man, moron or Monroe I meet is yellow at first. I can memorize lines more easily as an actress and writer since all the letters and names are color-coded. Tuesday is forest green, Wednesday is grayish-white with faint striped pattern; Thursday is brown, Friday is spinach green (cooked, not raw leaves) and the texture is sort of chaotic, faintly striped. Friday ends with a corner that closes off the week. So Monday thru Friday, the school-week/work-week is a series of colored blocks all the same height, then Friday has a corner at the bottom, which is like a cozy safe wall  
January is burgundy.  
You are encased in Friday afternoon and night has a wall on the right, which is the end of the school week. You can lean on the wall. Look up and you’ll see the next day, Saturday, which is really tall and white — but a subdued white with grayish tones. And again, Sunday is tall, root-beer colored.

Also days of the week and months of the year are different shapes and everything has a certain structure.

C is pink, E is light green, F is dark green, G is chocolate brown, H is light brown, I is white, J is root-beer colored, K is burgundy, etc. 
I only found out a few years ago that others also have this. I always thought everyone had it. I just found out my son has it too. People think I'm crazy. ~ Lydia Cornell 
Synesthesia is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. (from 1 in 20 to 1 in 90 to 1 in 20,000).

Richard Cytowic, MD, is one of the world's leading researchers on synesthesia, a mindblowing neurological condition in which two or more senses are linked so that you might, for example, "taste" sounds or "hear" colors. Cytowic and neuroscientist David Eagleman have a new book out, Wednesday Is Indigo Blue, about synesthesia, exploring the intersection of neuroscience and philosophy, and the subjectivity of reality. Jonah Lehrer, author of Proust Was A Neuroscientist and How We Decide, interviewed Cytowic for Scientific American. From SciAm:

LEHRER: What can synesthetes teach us about the nature of human perception?

CYTOWIC: Far from being a mere curiosity, synesthesia is a consciously elevated form of the perception that everyone already has. Minds that function differently are not so strange after all, and everyone can learn from them.

Synesthesia has opened up a window onto a broad expanse of the brain and perception. Younger researchers are now active in 15 countries. Because the trait runs strongly in families, it is easy to collect DNA from a large number of synesthetic relatives. This means that synesthesia may be the very first perceptual condition for which science can map its gene. This inherited quirk is teaching us that cross-talk among the senses is the rule rather than the exception--we are all inward synesthetes who are outwardly unaware of sensory couplings happening all the time.

For example, sight, sound, and movement normally map to one another so closely that even bad ventriloquists convince us that whatever moves is doing the talking. Likewise, cinema convinces us that dialogue comes from the actors' mouths rather than the surrounding speakers. Dance is another example of cross-sensory mapping in which body rhythms imitate sound rhythms kinetically and visually. We so take these similarities for granted that we never question them the way we might doubt colored hearing.

                          Hearing-motion synesthesia - Boing Boing
                          These words taste blue: Synesthesia in SciAm - Boing Boing
                          Technological synaesthesia - Boing Boing

Famous People

Some celebrated people who may have had synesthesia include:
 Vasily Kandinsky (painter, 1866-1944)
 Olivier Messiaen (composer, 1908-1992)
 Charles Baudelaire (poet, 1821-1867)
 Franz Liszt (composer, 1811-1886)
 Arthur Rimbaud (poet, 1854-1891)
 Richard Phillips Feynman (physicist, 1918-1988)
It is possible that some of these people merely expressed synesthetic ideas in their arts, although some of them undoubtedly did have synesthesia.

The Biological Basis of Synesthesia

Some scientists believe that synesthesia results from "crossed-wiring" in the brain. They hypothesize that in synesthetes, neurons and synapses that are "supposed" to be contained within one sensory system cross to another sensory system. It is unclear why this might happen but some researchers believe that these crossed connections are present in everyone at birth, and only later are the connections refined. In some studies, infants respond to sensory stimuli in a way that researchers think may involve synesthetic perceptions. It is hypothesized by these researchers that many children have crossed connections and later lose them. Adult synesthetes may have simply retained these crossed connections.It is unclear which parts of the brain are involved in synesthesia. Richard Cytowic's research has led him to believe that the limbic system is primarily responsible for synesthetic experiences. The limbic system includes several brain structures primarily responsible for regulating our emotional responses. Other research, however, has shown significant activity in the cerebral cortex during synesthetic experiences. In fact, studies have shown a particularly interesting effect in the cortex: colored-hearing synesthetes have been shown to display activity in several areas of the visual cortex when they hear certain words. In particular, areas of the visual cortex associated with processing color are activated when the synesthetes hear words. Non-synesthetes do not show activity in these areas, even when asked to imagine colors or to associate certain colors with certain words.

Synesthesia and the Study of Consciousness

Many researchers are interested in synesthesia because it may reveal something about human consciousness. One of the biggest mysteries in the study of consciousness is what is called the "binding problem." No one knows how we bind all of our perceptions together into one complete whole. For example, when you hold a flower, you see the colors, you see its shape, you smell its scent, and you feel its texture. Your brain manages to bind all of these perceptions together into one concept of a flower. Synesthetes might have additional perceptions that add to their concept of a flower. Studying these perceptions may someday help us understand how we perceive our world.

Hear IT!SynesthesiaLimbic

Synesthesia Experiment

  1. Read a list of random numbers between 0 and 9 at a rate of about one every 3 seconds. For example: 7, 9, 4, 0, 3, 8, 2, 5, 1, 6.
  2. After each number is read, ask people to write down the number and what COLOR that they associate with each number.
  3. Collect the answers. These will be called "Answers #1".
  4. Two to three weeks later, repeat the experiment, but change the order of the numbers. For example: 3, 6, 5, 9, 4, 1, 7, 0, 5, 2, 8.
  5. Collect the answers. These will be called "Answers #2".
  6. Compare Answers #1 with Answers #2. A person with synesthesia will have all or most of the same number-color pairs on both Answers #1 and Answers #2.This experiment can also be done using letters instead of numbers.

 References and more information on synesthesia, see:
  1. Cytowic, R., Synesthesia: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology, A Review of Current Knowledge. Psyche: An interdisciplinary journal of research on consciousness.
  2. Synesthesia Test
  3. Mixed Signals
  4. Synesthesia Links
  5. American Synesthesia Association
  6. Synesthesia and the Synesthetic Experience
  7. Richard E. Cytowic Web Site
  8. Nunn, J.A., Gregory, L.J., Brammer, M., Williams, S.C.R., Parslow, D.M., Morgan, M.J., Morris, R.G., Bullmore, E.T., Baron-Cohen, S., and Gray, J.A. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of synesthesia: activation of V4/V8 by spoken words, Nature Neuroscience, 5:371-375, 2002.
  9. Palmer, T.J., Blake, R., Marois, R., Flanery, M.A., and Whetsell, Jr., W., The perceptual reality of synesthetic colors, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 99:4127-4131, 2002.
  10. Lemley, B., Do You See What They See? Discover, Vol 20, No. 12, December 1999.
  11. Cytowic, R.E., The Man Who Tasted Shapes, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998.
  12. Cytowic, R.E. and Eagleman, D.M., Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2009.
  13. Cytowic, R.E. Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses, Cambridge, The MIT Press, 2002.
  14. Duffy, P.L., Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds, New York: WH Freeman & Co, 2001.
  15. Mass, W., A Mango Shaped Space, Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.
  16. Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes - Ramachandran, V.S. and Hubbard, E.M., Scientific American, Vol 288 Issue 5 (May 2003), 52-59.