Saturday, June 20, 2009

Synesthesia discussed on ABC Radio National

Highly recommended
Synesthesia has never been a problem for me. I first came to realise I was a synesthete -- that I had synaesthesia, or synesthesia ("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" - Wikipedia -- in 1970, when I was 17, about 25 years before I knew there was a word for it. I still have a poem I wrote about it the same year, called 'Jack is Orange', in which I was attempting to communicate how I see words and letters as colours. The word 'jack' is still orange to me. Most, if not all, words have colours for me. For decades I thought they did for everybody.

All in The Mind has an interesting interview this week with David Eagleman, "a leading researcher in synesthesia, studying people who taste sounds, hear colours, and live in a remarkable world of sensory cross-talk".

Eagleman says, "it's not that they're being silly, or metaphorical, or artistic"; "it's really quite common, at least one per cent of the population"; "most synesthetes will go through their life not realising that other people don't see the world as they do".

I can vouch for the fact that it took me until I was well into middle age to discover that not everybody was like me in this regard. I don't count it as a curse or a blessing. I'm an artist (writer), but I don't see synesthesia as arty-farty, although I think it has influenced my writing. It just is. I can imagine that for some people it could be a curse.

The radio program, with audio and transcript on the website, is very interesting -- at least to a synesthetic person like me. Worth listening to.

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