What if you could visualize the crescendo of an orchestra as a barrage of color and texture, like something out of the Disney movie Fantasia? Or if observing a rippling stream caused your brain to reverberate with the musical notes of a cello?
This is something of what life can be like for those who experience synesthesia, a condition in which two or more senses are coupled together. That means that hearing sound can stimulate visual imagery, or a color can have a particular taste or personality trait.
According to neuroscientist and professor Richard Cytowic, roughly four percent of the population bears the synesthesia gene, which isn’t always expressed. Around one in 90 individuals is an actual synesthete. “Some people are born with two or more of their senses hooked together, so that my voice is not only something that they hear—they might also see it or taste it or feel it,” Cytowic says. And what’s more, synesthetes are usually “shocked to discover that not everybody is like them.”
While there are a variety of forms, not all have been described or documented. According to Dr. Nicolas Rothen, common types, by his reckoning, include: music-color (things that are heard are translated into various hues), grapheme-color (which imbues letters and text with corresponding colors), and sequence-space, wherein sequences like numbers, days of the weeks, or months of the years produce “inducers” (often vibrant spatial arrangements). Cytowic cites some additional subsets of synesthesia that he has noted, including varieties in which flavors or personality traits are paired with colors or sounds.
this article has been re-posted from Artsy by author Ilana Herzig is an Editorial Intern at Artsy.