Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can you see this opera? The neuropsychology of synaesthesia

Reaction times for answers that are congruent ...
In the 1880's, Francis Galton described a condition in which "persons...almost invariably think of numerals in visual imagery." .  This condition is called synaethesia. 

There is a grapheme meme synaethesia which see equations in colors.

 Wassily Kadinsky, a tone-colour synaesthete, could see Wagner's Lohengrin
This opera about a quest for the Holy Grail which looks like this:

becomes this picture, "Yellow, Red, and Blue".

“I saw all my colours in spirit, before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me.”

In an experiment by Jamie           , subjects who viewed an animation were then asked to choose the image that fit best with the music they heard. It was found that the images drawn by the synaesthetes were consistently chosen over those drawn by the controls, suggesting that there is an unconscious link between vision and hearing in non-synaesthetes that is similar to that experienced by synaesthetes.

Another form of synaesthesia, time-space synaesthesia,  may underly the savant-like abilities of people with hyperthymestic (or "super-memory") syndrome.  Individuals with time-space synaesthesia  experience units of time - such as hours, days, or months - as occupying specific locations in space relative to their own body. 
In an experiment by Julia Simner of the University of Edinburgh, the synaesthetes were able to recall the dates of autobiographical, cultural and world political events more accurately than the non-synaesthetic controls.

This is truly a long shot... and a shot in the dark without any scientific evidence, but I am wondering if  I could overcome some of my problems with time management not only with a stop clock timing my action but also with some sense of visualization of time. 

 Link to Neurophilosophy on 'The cognitive benefits of time-space synaesthesia'.
Link to BBC News on time-space synaesthesia.

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