Can you taste colors or smell sounds? Do certain sounds make you angry?
“NyQuil comes in two colors, red and green. It’s the only thing on this planet that tastes like red and green.”
– Lewis Black, comedian
→ Did you know some people taste colors? As bizarre as it sounds, the tasting of colors and smelling sounds is a real neurological diagnosis. It’s called synesthesia and it’s defined as the ability to taste colors caused by two senses crossing over.
According to the National Library of Medicine website, synesthesia is a perceptual experience in which stimuli presented through one modality will spontaneously evoke sensations in an unrelated modality. The condition occurs from increased communication between sensory regions and is involuntary, automatic and stable over time. While synesthesia can occur in response to drugs, sensory deprivation, or brain damage, research has largely focused on heritable variants comprising roughly 4% of the general population.
→ Did you know people who are diagnosed with synesthesia are called synesthetes? Healthline.com states “the word “synesthesia” comes from the Greek words: “synth” (which means “together”) and “ethesia” (which means “perception). Synesthetes perceive the world differently. They can often “see” music as colors when they hear it, and “taste” textures like “round” or “pointy” when they eat foods.” Imagine seeing green and the taste of mint makes your taste buds overload. Or, when you hear bells ringing the taste of cooked beef enters your nose. Could tasting colors and smelling sounds interrupt daily living activities?
→ Did you know people who experience synesthesia are usually born with it or develop it very early in childhood?
It’s possible for it to develop later. Research indicates that synesthesia can be genetically inherited. In addition, a Scientific American 2006 article “What is Synesthesia?” states the causes of synesthesia also remain unknown. Some scientists have suggested that everyone is born synesthetic but that the typical developmental trajectory results in these highly interconnected brain areas becoming far more segregated.
→ Did you know there are different types of synesthesia? There’s grapheme which is color synesthesia, described as seeing sounds or colored hearing. Lexical-gustatory is the rarest type and it’s when synesthetes taste words. One way to find out if you suffer from Lexical-gustatory is if you taste words while reading this article, chances are, you suffer from this disorder. Chromesthesia is the perception of music in shapes and colors and is defined as eliciting visual images (colors) by aural stimuli; the most common form of synesthesia. Misophonia is the “hatred of sound” a condition in which sounds trigger strong negative emotions like disgust and anger. It’s extremely rare and may be caused by problematic connections between the auditory cortex and the limbic system. Commonly reported amongst misophones are strong adverse feelings in response to the sounds of other people eating and breathing.
→ Did you know there is no treatment for synesthesia? Because it’s not classified as a disease nor harmful to physical and mental health. It’s labeled more of an annoyance than a disorder, but with benefits. People who have synesthesia generally have better memories and can have a unique perception of the world.