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Synesthesia: Sharing the Senses

Everyone has heard of the word anesthesia; it literally means without sensation. Synesthesia means joined or shared sensation. Some people are blessed with synesthesia. Synesthesia isnÂ’t really a disorder; itÂ’s more like a quirk of physiology.

Everyone has heard of the word anesthesia; it literally means without sensation. Synesthesia means joined or shared sensation. Some people are blessed with synesthesia. Synesthesia isn’t really a disorder; it’s more like a quirk of physiology.

Imagine seeing a beautiful mountain setting when you look out your kitchen window, and imagine besides seeing the view with your eyes, you also saw it with your sense of taste. Imagine tasting blueberries every time you look at that view. Imagine when you taste a chocolate cake you see pink and silver stripes. Some folks can actually experience their senses in a different way than most of us.

It’s important to understand that synesthetes (people who have synesthesia) don’t use their imagination to experience their senses. A synesthete isn’t imagining pink and silver stripes when he/she tastes chocolate; he/she is actually experiencing the sensation. The experiences of shared sensation of the senses are the same every time. For instance, if you look at a rose and you taste almonds, you will always taste almonds when you see a rose. Whatever sensation that is shared, will be the same because shares sensations are involuntary.

Synesthesia can involve all 5 senses, but it usually doesn’t involve more than 2 or 3. Most people who have synesthesia feel like the rest of us are really missing something by not having it. They wouldn’t want to ever be without it. The only ones who might wish to not have the synesthetic experience might be those who don’t have a good experience. I’ve not ever seen or heard of anyone who didn’t feel lucky for having it.

Synesthetes have the primary perception, just like everyone else. It is the secondary perception which is the shared one; such as tasting what you see and feeling the sense of taste with your sense of touch.

Carol Crane, a woman interviewed on 60 Minutes says she feels guitars in her ankles and violins on her face. You can read about the experiences from the individuals interviewed here.

Synesthetes, who experience the world differently than we do, aren’t on drugs or hallucinating. Their senses are wired up to share information. Some researchers suggest that we are all born with this ability to share information within our sense organs. For instance, a baby may be able to see sounds, as well as hear them. It is suggested that as babies grow up, most of them lose the shared connection between the senses, but some actually keep the connections and continue to see, feel, taste, touch, and hear differently than most of us do.


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Comments (8)

Good info. I've read the part when you look at a rose, you taste almonds. I think its the same as when I look at a book, I taste chips.... Its probably because of the association thing. When I read a book, I also eat chips. But this is not the same as Synesthisia, I think. Anyway re tweeted and FB liked.

Thanks Phoenix. No, it's not the same thing, but it's interesting just the same.

How odd, very interesting

I remember studying this a bit in college...very strange and interesting indeed. I think it would drive me crazy! Thanks for the great write-up!

Fascinating article! :-)

Thanks Sharla! I think if we had it, and were born with it.. it wouldn't be bothersome at all.. it would be normal to experience a sense in two or more

Thanks Janet!

Amazing topic, cool sharing of senses.