31 January 2013

Synesthesia | "B" Is For Orange

Synesthesia | ohhaiitssonja
I made this painting for a school assignment using watercolours and 
water markers on a 40x50cm canvas. It's based on my personal synesthesia,
and how I view different different shapes in different colours.
Click image to enlarge | Illustration is not related to article
While Nathan Witthoft was earning his PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he met a woman with color-grapheme synesthesia, a neurological condition where people see letters and numbers in color. Most color-grapheme synesthetes perceive the alphabet in their own color scheme, with each letter possessing a different hue. When tested on her synesthesia, Witthoft noticed that it had reoccurring colors, as if her alphabet followed a set, repeated pattern. She mentioned that as a child she had a set of colored alphabet magnets and her letters matched the colors of the letters in the set.
Witthoft wrote a paper about her and soon others contacted him, noting that their synesthesia mimicked the colors of the magnets. He recruited 11 synesthetes to visit the lab and take some tests. First, he asked the subjects to participate in a battery of tests to determine whether they were, in fact, synesthetes (the tests come fromsynesthete.org; anyone can register and take them online). Then, they participated in a timed color-matching test, where they selected the shade that corresponded with their letter. He found that all 11 subjects had a similarly colored alphabet that paralleled the childhood magnet set. All but one of the participants recalled having this toy during their childhoods.
This is the first time researchers found that color-grapheme synesthetes shared common patterns. “I had been surprised by how easy it was to find people [whose synesthesia mirrors the magnetic alphabet toy],” says Witthoft, a post-doctoral researcher at Stanford University in the psychology department. Additionally, these color patterns stay constant. The woman from MIT participated in this study as well and her alphabet remained similar to what it was seven years ago. All the subjects completed the matching test twice with about 50 days in between—both times the letters possessed the same shades. These findings are consistent with researchers’ understanding of synesthesia as being specific, automatic, and constant.
More at Body Odd | NBC News

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