What Is Synesthesia?

Synesthesia is a neurologically based condition in which a person experiences "crossed" responses to stimuli. Synesthesia occurs when stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision). About 5 percent of the population has synesthesia, and over 60 types have been reported. The most common form of synesthesia is grapheme-color synesthesia, in which people perceive individual letters of the alphabet and numbers to be "shaded" or "tinged" with a color. Other synesthetes commingle sounds with scents, sounds with shapes, or shapes with flavors. 

Recent Posts on Synesthesia

When a Lie Reveals a Truth: Insights from the McGurk Effect

Sometimes a lie can reveal a truth about a scientific mystery

Invisible Colors

By Maureen Seaberg on January 21, 2016 Sensorium
A rare example of a color blind synesthete, Morgan Bauman describes her experiences.

Please Refrain from Slurping!

By Maureen Seaberg on December 11, 2015 Sensorium
Slurp, snap, gurgle. Learn more about misophonia — an intolerance to eating sounds.

Ambivalence in Addiction

The Latin word "addictum" once described the length of time an indentured slave had to serve. The person who served that sentence was the "addict." The etymology means “bound to”—just as many of us are hopelessly bound to our screens.

Nurse Literally Feels Your Pain

By Maureen Seaberg on October 01, 2015 Sensorium
Mirror-touch synesthete medical professionals are the new rock stars of the bonus senses set...

The Pink Synesthesia Ranger

By Maureen Seaberg on September 25, 2015 Sensorium
Bryonna Fissori is The Pink Ranger due to her synesthetic colors...

Out of Darkness and Into a Glowing World of Technicolor

Gina Marie Applebee had been blind for five years when her senses woke up and she started imagining reality in ways that often accurately reflect her surroundings.

The Future of Synesthesia Research

By Maureen Seaberg on June 03, 2015 Sensorium
One of synesthesia research's bright young stars, Candita Wager

Do Sounds Have Shapes?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on May 06, 2015 Talking Apes
Synesthesia, or a mixing of the senses, may tell us something about the origin of speech.

Geography of Aging and the Illusion of Self

By Mario D Garrett PhD on May 04, 2015 iAge
There is no "me". My body is a fusion of the outside world and an internal reality. The distinction between me and them is purely a creation of my mind. The separation comes as an afterthought. My mind creates this dualism, but in reality my body is fused with the geography and behavior of others around. The sense of self is how the body placates me.

Diplomatic Synesthesia

By Maureen Seaberg on April 09, 2015 Sensorium
Diplomat Mo Sacirbey reports the geometric synesthesia he experiences during negotiations...

Two Synesthetes Walk Into a Bar...

By Maureen Seaberg on March 25, 2015 Sensorium
What's So Funny About Synesthesia? Plenty!

First Synesthete on Mars?

By Maureen Seaberg on February 24, 2015 Sensorium
Synesthete Andrew Tunks believes our mind's inner space is crucial to success in outer space.

Bricks for Nik

By Maureen Seaberg on October 23, 2014 Sensorium
Alternating currents: history is finally catching up on brilliant synesthete inventor Nikola Tesla.

"Synesthesia is in the mind, not the brain" - Geoffrey Rush

By Maureen Seaberg on September 01, 2014 Sensorium
Geoffrey Rush believes synesthesia lives in the realm of the senses and the mind, not the brain alone.

LUSH Spa's Blissful Synaesthesia Massage

By Maureen Seaberg on August 22, 2014 Sensorium
LUSH's Synaesthesia Massage was created by actual synaesthetes...

Geoffrey Rush On His Synesthesia

By Maureen Seaberg on August 05, 2014 Sensorium
Geoffrey Rush of Australia has several forms of synesthesia...

Sensory Sensitivity and Synesthesia

By Michael Jawer on July 23, 2014 Feeling Too Much
Hypersensitivity is the first of many intriguing correspondences between synesthesia, autism, savantism, and prodigiousness.

The Letters on the Blocks in Kindergarten Weren’t “Right”

After finding out that his condition was genetic my grandfather asked all of his grandkids, “What color is 3?” Turned out he and I shared colored letters.

Brilliant Brain By Accident

“I believe I am living proof that these powers lie dormant in all of us,” Jason Padgett writes in Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Released today.

What Do Words Taste Like?

The German word “Pilz” (mushroom) has the taste and texture of marzipan, even though I fully realize that it means mushroom in English. The word “mushroom” tastes like a mushroom.

Struck by Genius

By Maureen Seaberg on April 06, 2014 Sensorium
Acquired savant and synesthete Jason Padgett was struck by genius.

The Girl Who Heard Colors

By Maureen Seaberg on March 12, 2014 Sensorium
The Girl Who Heard Colors has an important message for young children.

HBO's New Hit Series "True Detective" Features Synesthete

By Maureen Seaberg on January 29, 2014 Sensorium
HBO "True Detective" creator Nic Pizzolatto is a synesthete who has now created a hit show featuring a synesthete character…

Synesthesia Finally Has Resume Value

By Maureen Seaberg on January 21, 2014 Sensorium
Update those resumes and business cards, synesthetes!

Death Is a Synesthete (In The Book Thief by Mark Zusak)

Mark Zusak's novel, The Book Thief, is narrated by Death, a synesthete who tastes colors. Synesthesia is a benign neurological condition where the physical senses overlap. Sensory systems are well-studied in neuroscience, and investigating how synesthesia arises could lead to therapies for other brain diseases that are also characterized by atypical connection patterns.

Ghost in the Machine

By Maureen Seaberg on November 06, 2013 Sensorium
Kaylee literally feels the mechanisms of machines through synesthesia...

DNA Results: Positive for Tetrachromacy

By Maureen Seaberg on October 14, 2013 Sensorium
Could I be the first confirmed synesthete tetrachromat?

The Immune Hypothesis for Synesthesia

A new hypothesis published in Frontiers in Neuroscience suggests that there might be a connection between atypical functioning of the immune system and synesthesia, a condition in which sensory or cognitive channels that normally are separate blend and lead to unusual, mixed sensory experiences or thoughts.

Thinking in Numbers

By Maureen Seaberg on September 11, 2013 Sensorium
Daniel Tammet is as much a man of letters as numbers...