Have you every noticed that a color can feel heavy (even if it’s a light color)? Or tight, or smooth, or have a flavor? If the colors you see register as tastes, sounds or physical sensations, then you might have synesthesia.
Synesthesia is a condition in the brain processes that describes when the brain mixes up the senses – taste, touch, smell, hearing and vision so that the person with synesthesia may experience a taste as a shape (for example) or a number as a color.
Though modern scientists first documented synesthesia in the 1880’s it wasn’t until recently with the aid of brain scans and other technology, that science has found a way to ascertain that synesthesia is not just a gift for metaphor, but is an actual brain condition.
In the article, Hearing Color, Tasting Shapes, by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward M. Hubbard, published by Scientific American, the authors discuss the phenonmenon of synesthesia and explain the possible reasons for the condition.
“Our insights into the neurological basis of synesthesia could help explain some of the creativity of painters, poets and novelists. According to one study, the condition is seven times as common in creative people as in the general population. . . . In addition to clarifying why artists might be prone to experiencing synesthesia, our research suggests that we all have some capacity for it and that this trait may have set the stage for the evolution of abstraction–an ability at which humans excel.”
When I walk through a client’s home, the colors, shapes and textures speak to me kinesthetically as well as visually. And sometimes I get the sensation of a taste or sound, depending upon how the colors in the room interact. I never gave much thought to this ability until I read Ramachandran and Hubbard’s work. Then a way of experiencing the world that I had considered a personal idiosyncrasy was suddenly something with a name that I now know is experienced by others.
When science “proves” something that artists have been perceiving, the necessity of the arts in education is even more apparent to me. People who have neurological wiring that gives them problems or idiosyncrasies such as dyslexia or synesthesia don’t often fit into the standard learning and teaching styles enforced in the average school. Including the arts in school curriculum allows these people to succeed and flourish and maybe someday, even become artists of one kind or another.