In 1893 a Swiss neuroscientist called Theodore Flournoy conducted an interview with an individual known only as "Madame L", during which Madame L described the personalities of numbers, from 6, an orphaned young man, very well brought up and polite, to 9, the selfish and maniacal husband ofMadame 8, to the extravagant and self-centred 5. For Madame L it was impossible to contemplate the numbers without feeling their attendant personalities. This is one of the first records we have of synaesthesia, often described as a rare neurological condition that gives rise to a type of "mergingof the senses". For those who experience it - synaesthetes - one sense appears to cross with another. Some people experience the sensation of different flavours when they hear certain words, while others see vivid colours on reading words. In the varying forms of synaesthesia letters, numbers,words, sounds, colours, or textures can merge together, resulting in sensations of colourful chords, chicken that feels pointy when eaten, and beef that tastes dark blue.In this Very Short Introduction Julia Simner introduces the many different ways synaesthesia presents itself. Discussing the scientific tests we have developed for distinguishing true synaesthetes (who may not even be aware that their sensations are unusual), Simner considers how we can measure theeffects synaesthesia has on the everyday lives of people living with it. Exploring the fascinating stories of different individuals' experiences of the world through the many forms of synaesthesia, she discusses the increasingly documented links between synaesthesia and artistic creativity andlateral thinking, and also the potential limitations synaesthesia might impose. Delving into the neuroscience behind synaesthesia, Simner also relates contemporary attempts at understanding both the genetic causes of synaesthesia, and how synesthetic sensations occur in the brain.ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, andenthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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Synaesthesia in the brain
Synaesthesia and the arts
Is synaesthesia a gift or a condition?
Where does synaesthesia come from? The role of genetics and learning
The question of synaesthesia
Further reading and references
AFRICAN Alan Allen AMERICAN ANAERICAN ANCIENT Andrew Andrew Robinson animations Anthony anxiety ARCHITECTURE artists base-letters BIOLOGY blue brain BRITAIN brown cell cello Charles CHEMISTRY Chris CHRISTIAN Christopher colours Copyright CULTURAL Daniel David Davies ECONOMICS Edward EMPIRE ENVIRONMENTAL Eric ETHICS examples experience Figure finding Foster Frank GENIUS Graham grapheme-colour green grey heard HISTORY HUMAN INTERNATIONAL James John Jonathan Julia Kenneth LANDSCAPE languages LITERATURE looking Mark Martin MATHEMATICS Matthew Michael Mike month moving MUSIC Nicholas Nick ORGANIC Paul PERCEPTION Peter Philip PHILOSOPHY PHYSICS pink POLITICS PSYCHOLOGY PUBLIC qualities reading RELIGION represent Reproduced with permission REVOLUTION Richard Robert Roger ROMAN Russell scans SCIENCE screen Scruton sequence sequence-space synaesthesia shapes Short Introduction showing shown Simon Smith SOCIAL sounds Stephen Steven structure synaesthesia synaesthetes taste THEORY Thomas Timothy touch triggered understand White Wilson WORLD yellow