Thursday, 7 August 2008

Can You Hear The Dots? Try It And See!

No, The Dots are not a band with sound problems, I'm talking about synesthesia.

Before I tell you what it is, why not take part in a little experiment by following the instructions in this video (don't worry, it's all harmless!):

So did you hear anything from the moving dots? Try it a few times just to be sure.

I'm not trying to wind you up and yes, until today I had never heard of the word 'synesthesia' but according to scientists at Caltech and Edinburgh University, there are some people among us who would have heard something while watching those moving dots.

Confused? I'll let the scientists explain how they think it works:

"Individuals with synesthesia perceive the world in a different way from the rest of us. Because their senses are cross-activated, some synesthetes perceive numbers or letters as having colors or days of the week as possessing personalities, even as they function normally in the world. Now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology have discovered a type of synesthesia in which individuals hear sounds, such as tapping, beeping, or whirring, when they see things move or flash. Surprisingly, the scientists say, auditory synesthesia may not be unusualand may simply represent an enhanced form of how the brain normally processes visual information."

Basically, US scientists have discovered people who can "hear" what they see.

"Psychologists previously reported visual, tactile, and taste synesthesias, but auditory synesthesia had never been identified. Caltech lecturer in computation and neural systems Melissa Saenz discovered the phenomenon quite by accident."

"While I was running an experiment at the Caltech Brain Imaging Center, a group of students happened to pass by on a tour, and I volunteered to explain what I was doing," explains Saenz, who, along with Christof Koch, the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at Caltech and professor of computation and neural systems, reports the finding in the August 5 issue of the journal Current Biology.

As part of the experiment, a moving display was running on my computer screen with dots rapidly expanding out, somewhat like the opening scene of Star Wars. Out of the blue, one of the students asked, "Does anyone else hear something when you look at that?" After talking to him further, I realized that his experience had all the characteristics of a synesthesia: an automatic sensory cross-activation that he had experienced all of his life," says Saenz."

To read more from this article, click here.

Crazy stuff! I would also like to point out here that people who can 'hear what they see' are not suffering from some kind of a disorder, more an enhancement and to be honest, I'm very jealous. When I tried the experiment, I couldn't hear a thing. I tried hard but realised that making up sounds in your head isn't quite the same thing!

If you'd like to read more about Synesthesia research and findings, try these links:

I wonder if this song still sounds as bad to people with synesthesia?

Did you hear anything?

[Source: Caltech Press, University Of Edinburgh, YouTube]

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