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7 years ago|12.1K views

Synaesthesia (Derek Tastes of Earwax) [Horizon]

Documentary exploring the sensory superpower you wish you had (well, maybe you do, a bit...).
"Perhaps 1 in every 100 people experiences a blending of the senses. For years scientists dismissed it, putting it in the same category as séances and spoon-bending. But now, synaesthesia is sparking a revolution in our understanding of the human mind.

Two synaesthetes seldom agree on the colours or tastes they experience. But despite these differences, scientists are now beginning to discover more and more overarching synaesthetic patterns. Overall, lower musical notes evoke darker colours and higher notes brighter colours; but surprisingly, when non-synaesthetes are asked to match colours and music, they show a similar pattern.
More than half of all synaesthetes who see coloured numbers also experience their numbers arranged in space around them. Recently, scientists found non-synaesthetes are better at manipulating small numbers with their left hand, and bigger numbers with their right [because that's how we write them?]. This suggests that we all somehow think of numbers as arranged in space, even if we're not aware of it. More evidence, it seems, that we're all synaesthetic to some degree. It's just that some people experience a more exaggerated version.

A few scientists believe that synaesthesia might even explain how we evolved two of the traits that define our species and have transformed our world - creativity and language. Many famous artists have been synaesthetes - the jazz legend Miles Davis, for instance, and the painter Kandinsky. In fact, a number of studies suggest that synaesthesia may be more common among artists, poets and musicians. This has led some scientists to argue that synaesthesia and creativity may share a similar basis - that both may be down to brain processes that involve linking two seemingly unrelated areas.

Some believe that our common synaesthetic abilities may also have been the springboard to language. Connections between our senses of hearing and vision, for example, could have been an important initial step towards the creation of words. Our earliest ancestors may have first started to talk by using sounds that actually evoked the object they wished to describe. According to this theory, language could have emerged from the multitude of synaesthetic connections within our brains."

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