What color is your alphabet? Is your “A” red, your “B” yellow? These questions might sound strange, but they make perfect sense to people who have a condition called synesthesia. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.
“I can remember as I was growing up, asking someone, Well, what color is your ‘B’ or ‘C’?, and they would look at me rather oddly and I would just drop it. And several years ago, I was sitting in a class and the professor was trying to encourage people to do some volunteer work and experiments on synesthesia. A number of people in the class asked, ‘What is synesthesia?’ and he said, ‘Oh, these are people who think fives are red.’ And I said, ‘Fives are green!’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Well, you must be a synesthete.'”
Carol Crane has synesthesia, a condition in which one sense can trigger another. Sounds or smells have colors, a touch may also have a taste. A number of artists and scientists have reported having synesthesia, among them writer Vladimir Nabokov, Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Scientists say that brilliant or creative people are no more likely than others to have synesthesia, but it does seem to affect more women than men. It also tends to run in families, and that’s one reason why it’s important to learn more about the condition, according to researcher Peter Grossenbacher.
“The genetic factor could lead to astounding results, if it turns out that one gene or a small number of genes becomes known to influence such an important psychological function as how the world is perceived, what sensations arise on the mind, given certain sensory inputs or thoughts.”
Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. For more information about synesthesia, contact Dr. Peter Grossenbacher via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (303) 245-4663.