Synaesthesia
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Synaesthesia [American: synesthesia] comes from the Greek 'syn' (together) + 'aesthesis' (perception), and denotes the blending of different sensory sensations. For example, people with 'coloured hearing' experience colours when they listen to music or the sound of speech. Other examples of synaesthesia include experiencing taste from written words, or the sensation of tactile shapes from smells. The most common form is colours trigged by letters, numbers and words. Synaesthesia is not the same as simple metaphor, which all people do (e.g., saying that anger is red) and is more than simply the artistic sensitivity to colours.
Synaesthesia is automatic and cannot be controlled at will. Research has shown that synaesthetes have their experiences from a very young age, and that the pre-disposition passes down through families. Our research at the University of Edinburgh, in the UK, aims to understand the inheritance, prevalence and underling psychological mechanisms of synaesthesia. We'are particularly interested in those variants that are triggered by language, although we have studied many other different forms (e.g., music-colour).

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04/06/2008 updated