Synesthesia: Feeling the Music


When someone says they can really feel a certain piece of music, they’re usually talking about an emotional response to the sound. But there are people who experience music as a sound and as a sensation. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

“My name is Carol Crane. I’m a psychologist and a synesthete.”

A synesthete is a person with a rare condition called synesthesia, in which the senses seem to overlap. A sound might have a color, or a sight may also have a taste. Carol Crane, like many synesthetes, always sees the letters of the alphabet as having specific colors. But she also has a more unusual form of synesthesia. The sounds of certain musical instruments cause distinct physical sensations on different parts of her body.

music: guitar music

“I feel that music on my ankles, both ankles. There are two different kinds of sensation. There’s one that’s an almost constant sensation and then there’s one that comes with the beat of the music, with each note that is played. It’s on the top of my foot, just where the foot creases into the leg It’s like a very soft brushing, like with a soft cloth on a specific part of my body. Guitars, I always experience on my ankles. Violins are on my face. Trumpets are on the back of my neck. Piano is my heart. It’s totally consistent. Every time I hear sounds from any of those instruments, they happen on exactly the same parts of my body.”

Although estimates vary, scientists think that one in 300 people may experience some form of synesthesia. Very little is understood about the phenomenon, although studies have shown that the brains of synesthetes process information differently from non-synesthetes. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner. For more information about synesthesia, contact Dr. Peter Grossenbacher via e-mail at peterg@naropa.edu or call him at (303) 245-4663.


Synesthesia: Feeling the Music

"Feeling the music" usually refers to an emotional response to the sound. But for one woman with a rare condition called synesthesia, music really causes physical sensations.
Air Date:11/09/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:


When someone says they can really feel a certain piece of music, they're usually talking about an emotional response to the sound. But there are people who experience music as a sound and as a sensation. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

"My name is Carol Crane. I'm a psychologist and a synesthete."

A synesthete is a person with a rare condition called synesthesia, in which the senses seem to overlap. A sound might have a color, or a sight may also have a taste. Carol Crane, like many synesthetes, always sees the letters of the alphabet as having specific colors. But she also has a more unusual form of synesthesia. The sounds of certain musical instruments cause distinct physical sensations on different parts of her body.

music: guitar music

"I feel that music on my ankles, both ankles. There are two different kinds of sensation. There's one that's an almost constant sensation and then there's one that comes with the beat of the music, with each note that is played. It's on the top of my foot, just where the foot creases into the leg It's like a very soft brushing, like with a soft cloth on a specific part of my body. Guitars, I always experience on my ankles. Violins are on my face. Trumpets are on the back of my neck. Piano is my heart. It's totally consistent. Every time I hear sounds from any of those instruments, they happen on exactly the same parts of my body."

Although estimates vary, scientists think that one in 300 people may experience some form of synesthesia. Very little is understood about the phenomenon, although studies have shown that the brains of synesthetes process information differently from non-synesthetes. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner. For more information about synesthesia, contact Dr. Peter Grossenbacher via e-mail at peterg@naropa.edu or call him at (303) 245-4663.