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My Sudden Synaesthesia (mosaicscience.com)
104 points by anotherevan on Oct 10, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

I have weed-induced music -> shape, texture, etc. synesthesia. Each instrument (or voice) in a song has its associated brightness, shape, texture, size, location in space, and they all are animated with the song. This form is much less common than the types of synesthesia relating to colors but I think it's the most fun. There are quite a few consistencies that make sense to people who don't have it: lower frequency sounds look darker, louder sounds are larger, drums have a "sandy" (non-solid) texture. It all comes together and makes the song look beautiful.

I'd like to make a VR animation for one song to show others how it looks sometime. There are some videos produced by others but I don't think they give the full experience and they are missing something. On the other hand, I'm happy I don't have this ability normally because I would've probably gotten involved in some music-related field and that might not be a great career path. It seems to make music composition much more intuitive and just "obvious."

A couple good books on the subject: "Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia" and "Sensory Blending: On Synaesthesia and related phenomena."

Marijuana acts as a hallucinogen for some people, so I think that's what's happening with you.

Wish they could selectively breed strains for this.

Pretty cool. I've experienced a similar type of synaesthesia but it was based on rhythmic patterns for me. For instance, I was listening to a song that was in 3/4 or 6/8 or something, and I saw a really distinct triangle pattern. And then the album changed to 4/4 and became more of a square.

On the other hand, I wonder how much of a competitive edge someone with synesthesia would have with music over someone without it.

My understanding is you can perceive when music looks/feels/smells right or whatever your sensory blend is, which means you can perceive things that work well together that others might not. Of course I could be completely wrong about this.

Reminds me of this, by the author Steve Aylett:

"I certainly don’t think in words. I’m not sure that anyone does. Does anyone really think in sentences, like in films when you see someone thinking and you hear a voice-over? I don’t anyway, I see stuff visually, as shapes, colours, textures and mechanisms sort of hanging there in space. If there’s a hole in someone’s argument I visually see a hole in it, in the armature and mass of the thing. I’ll see the shape of a whole book that way before it’s written, and so far, the books have all ended up the way I saw them originally."


If you're unfamiliar with "absolute pitch" I suggest you look it up. Some people claim to have AP by way of sound->color synesthesia, but for most people with AP, synesthesia isn't required. AP definitely gives some edge over others in certain aspects of musical abilities.

My guess is that it can prove an advantage if you associate it with proper musical education. Without the necessary education, I suspect it would be more of a distraction, where you try to match things that are totally alien to your listeners while neglecting the basics.

As for drug-induced synesthesia, the idea would be the same. It can give you ideas, but most of them are likely to only make sense in your own world. It means that unless you really have too much experience with your drugs, the bulk of the work has to be done on a clear head, with a solid musical foundation.

IIRC one or more of the members of Tool has synaesthesia for reference.

Off the top of my head, Jimi Hendrix had it...and Blood Orange

Yes, for example there were a couple songs when one instrument seemed to overlap another and that seemed “ugly” (and could be corrected).

How high do you gotta get for this to happen?

It helps if you put on some headphones, relax, and close your eyes.

Not very.

Auditory hallucinations are my favourite weed side-effect.

Discovering you have (what this article calls) classic synaesthesia is a very interesting experience. Suddenly many many things fall into place, but you also realize you experience the world in a fundamentally different manner than anyone else.

I remember I was 18, at college, and was eating in the dining hall with my friends one evening. We somehow started talking about our favorite colors and I said my favorite color was yellow probably because my name looks so yellow. They stopped eating and stared at me like I was crazy. They asked how does your name look yellow? I was like, what do you mean, it just is yellow. Do words not have colors for you? And just saying that out loud I realized how bizarre that sounded and that I didn't have an explanation for it. I honestly had never thought that much about the fact that words had colors for me. They proceeded to ask me what colors a ton of words were and then tested me again a few days later to see if I said the same things because they didn't believe me.

And that's how I found out I had synaesthesia.

There is a game in which players are shown a series of words that name colors, i.e. "yellow", "red", "green", etc. Sometimes the words are the same color as what they state - "yellow" being drawn in yellow, for instance. Other times, the words are written in a different color, for instance "blue" being written in green. Then, participants are asked quickly to state either the color of a given word, or to read the word, in a sequence of words according to different patterns. Studies on this seem to indicate that everyone has at least some capacity to confuse words with the sensations they evoke, and if anyone has not done one of these exercises it can be very interesting.

EDIT: Also, the descriptions people report of their imagination when reading a narrative description or exposition of a scene often include details seemingly arising in a loose associative way from the words themselves, without being explicitly described in the text.

EDIT 2: And I'm not entirely comfortable with the notion that people experience the world in a "fundamentally different way" when there is evidence that this may not be a fundamental difference after all. Different it is, no doubt, but this seems to be a difference of magnitude rather than fundamental nature. The predominant character of the experiences may be subjectively different, leading to a different approach to many situations in a person's life, but the mechanisms appear to be fundamental to consciousness itself.

This is the so called Stroop effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroop_effect

For synaesthesia-challenged Emacs users: https://i.imgur.com/ZQkgI3U.png

That looks so incredibly wrong.

Do you actually physically see yellow with your eyes or is it more in your mind, or a feeling of yellowness? Also do different people with synaesthaesia see the same colors for the same words?

With my grapheme→colour and word→colour synaesthesia, it’s definitely in my mind—when I look at the letter A, for example, my brain has the same reaction as if I were looking at a yellow object, even though I can see that it’s not actually yellow.

An upside of synaesthesia is that I have very good clerical accuracy, which is helpful for programming—typographical errors “stick out” because things appear the wrong colour. A downside is that I can’t really use syntax highlighting, because I find it distracting. This is what my terminal Emacs looks like: https://imgur.com/m76W8eF (with soft wrapping because there’s not really a line length limit in this codebase).

I can answer the second question, which is 'no'.

hmm, I'm not sure but I think there are many people with hidden synaesthesia like you, especially other forms that we don't know yet. Or there are different types of synaesthesia-like neurological phenomenons. Unsure if the government/doctors or schools should help you use/detect these or not.

I didn't think about this, but does feeling a smell or scent in different emotional strengths also count to synaesthesia?

Does this affect how you perceive designs with colored text in them?

Yes, a little bit. If you gave me a word in a certain color font, that would take precedence. Its not like I was see "my" color. But if I thought of the word out of that context, it would be its normal color again (usually based on the color of the first letter like described in the article). Exceptions are things like logos which have a fairly strong association with certain colors.

It doesn't seem to. Text can be in any color and my synaesthesia stays the same. If the text itself was multicolored, maybe? I'm not sure. It doesn't come up that often.

How do you perceive the Google's logo?

I'm not the op, but I have the same grapheme–colour synaesthesia, and I perceive Google's logo in its original colors. But if I look at the word Google in plain text (or imagine it in my mind's eye) the coloration is different. [G] is kind of a brown, the [o]s are black, the [l] is white, and only the [e] at the end has any color, a bright green. I have to think about the individual letter associations; the brown and black dominate my perception of the word itself, but the vowels are a bit brighter. It's... kind of hard to describe, I'll admit.

I guess I should stress that I don't "see" these colors. I just know, intuitively, that they are there. They are the color of the letters in my mind's eye, if you will. I suspect thus that it has nothing to do with the shape of the letters, but is a side effect of how my brain processes the language, and understands the underlying phonemes. That would also explain why the vowels seem to be so much brighter, since they are the most important letters when I'm scanning text quickly for comprehension.

I think I have now remembered the moment I became aware of my synesthesia. As a kid I was a bit of an art geek, I liked to read on art history and theory. Reading about Kandinsky there was an introduction that he had some kind of unique way of mapping sounds to colors, followed by a quote from Kandinsky. I was like "This is strange indeed, he got like half of the colors wrong!". Then the book proceeded to explain synesthesia and everything became clear.

I remember the huge lightbulb that went off in my head when I discovered that number forms are a form of synesthesia.

I've had number forms all my life. I never knew where they came from or why, so the way I see numbers finally made sense when I found out that it was part of a condition I've actually heard of before.

I also have some weak chromagraphemia, but the number forms are much stronger.

For example, here's a rough approximation of how I see the numbers 0-100. It's not perfect because it's hard to do suble slopes in text.

                                                                                                              69 70 71
                                                                                                      66 67 68        72 73 74
                                                                                              63 64 65                        75 76 77
                                                                                      60 61 62                                        78 79 80
                                         29 30 31                                     59                                                     81
                                        28      32                                    58                                                      82
                                       27        33                                   57                                                       83
                                      26          34                                  56                                                        84
                                      25           35                                 55                                                         85
                                     24             36                                54                                                          86
                                     23              37                               53                                                           87
                                    22                38                              52                                                            88
                                    21                 39                             51                                                             89
    10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20                    40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50                                                              90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100
This also applies to years, by the way. Just add 1900 to all these numbers and you have my visualization of the 20th century. I find it amusing that the Great Depression is a downward slope... but so is the boom of the '80s.

I was aware of my synesthesia for quite some time (numbers and letters had their colors for as long as I can remember, it also extends to some sound/taste/color combinations). I don't remember how it occurred to me that it's not how everyone perceives the world, must have been early in my childhood.

But I have never heard of this number form concept so thank you for unlocking it for me. My number form for natural numbers is quite smooth, like a tangent line progressing just slightly for numbers 0 - 20, then becoming almost vertical at >70. Of course the numbers (or, to be precise, digits, but sometimes they blend) have their colors. Negative numbers progress horizontally along the x axis to the left.

Does visualizing time also fall under a number form phenomenon? Or is it described by some other term? I'd love to learn more! Thinking of a year I see a disc, slightly tilted so winter months are a bit lower than summer, the time progress is counter-clockwise and I am constantly oriented spatially on this disc. So I always go "left" and "uphill" in the spring, and "downhill" in autumn, and past months are not simply "behind" me, I can point to them in space (so now, in October, January is more in front and slightly to the left, April is across on the other side, November just down the road, etc. To make things more fun every month has its color). Thinking about time brings me there just like thinking about walking around my real neighborhood brings awareness of how am I positioned in relation to my house. Thinking on smaller time scales just zooms it in and positions me like I was observing the edge of the disc from the inside (so weeks progress to the left as well; thinking about any week in a year makes me spatially aware of where I am in relation to the year).

Just trying to describe it for the first time makes it seem strange to me, while it was something that simply always has been with me all the time, and I half expect you to tell me that, in fact, this is basically how everyone perceives time.

tl;dr: is there a separate term to describe mapping time to space, or more generally applying spatial awareness to other phenomena / prceiving time using other senses?

> Does visualizing time also fall under a number form phenomenon?

I think it depends on how it's visualized. Number forms are idiosyncratic two-dimensional visualizations of any numerical sequence. If the visualization is three-dimensional, it's spatial sequence synesthesia, which is a different phenomenon.

For me, months of the year are something like a sine wave, which is still a number form. The peak is in June, and the trough is in December.

Edit: According to Wikipedia, spatio-temporal synesthesia is also a thing. I think that's what you have.

Do you only see number positions relative to each other or does a number on its own sit in a position in space for you? I'm trying to imagine what this is like.

Yes and no. If you gave me a single number, I'd see it and everything around it. So it has its own space and orientation, and if anything else is nearby in space I'll kind see that in my periphery. For example, 76 is directly above 66. And 56 is directly below. So I'd be aware of those as well as 65 and 67 if I think about 66. It's like every number is there, and then I zoom in on the location of the one I'm thinking about. Does that make sense?

Spatial synesthesia is the weirdest thing because it does not conform to physics. In my head at least. Technically speaking, 1-5 and 20-23 or so should be on top of each other, but they never are.

I am something like this

5 6 7 8 9 10 4 11 3 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 2 1

then its just lines like this (but upside down to the bit above)

etc 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

FYI, you need to prefix your numbers with four spaces for the formatting to be preserved.

The article described an SSD (sensory substitution device) that converts a particular color under a stylus into a sound.

I wonder if you could build an SSD that did a playback of a 2-dimensional scan of an input image in such a way that a blind person could rebuild the 2-dimensional image. Perhaps the brain could pick up something akin to CRT horizontal scan lines. Also, I wonder whether stereophonic output would be advantageous.

This is actually exactly the topic of the 3Blue1Brown video on Hilbert Curves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s7h2MHQtxc

Space-filling curves are a sort of optimal mapping strategy for compressing two dimensions down into one.

I find this video quite mesmerizing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtR63-ecUNo

Essentially it draws an object on an oscilloscope by splitting the audio channel into x y coordinates.

I find it easy to approximate various flavor types with audible pitches. Bitter flavors are deep bass, oils tend to be a little higher, complex carbs are a bit higher, sweets are in the middle or a little higher (carbs and sugars make up the 'vocal range' in my estimation), and sour flavors are way up high. People have tried to convince me that this is a mild/odd synaesthesia, but I feel it may just be imagination and an overeagerness to draw parallels/similies.

So, Sensory Substitution Device. There's an app for that?

I wonder how far Vanessa has been able to recover.

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