Why the big deal? Redefining synaesthesia.

You might be wondering why I am so interested in documenting and naming the various types of synaesthesia that I experience which appear to have never been reported scientifically or anecdotally before, experiences such as concept -> scene synaesthesia, fine motor task -> scene synaesthesia and The Strange Phenomenon. You might also be wondering why I’m so excited to find that there are other people who report experiences that seem to fall into the category of concept -> scene synesthesia. These three types of synaesthesia are, I believe, of scientific importance because they are indeed synaesthesia, but they also violate the third criteria for identifying synaesthesia that was stated years ago by the US neurologist and pioneer of synesthesia science, Richard Cytowic. Cytowic’s list of synaesthesia criteria can be seen at the Wikipedia’s article about synaesthesia. Criteria number three is thus:

3. Synesthetic percepts are consistent and generic (i.e., simple rather than pictorial).

My experiences of concept -> scene synaesthesia, fine motor task -> scene synaesthesia and The Strange Phenomenon range from very consistent to fairly consistent, but the visual synaesthesia experiences triggered in these types of synaesthesia are most certainly not “generic” or simple. These are most certainly pictorial experiences, they are visual memories of landscape scenes and of one particular face.

I’m not too alarmed that I have synaesthesia experiences that don’t appear to conform to some rules of synaesthesia definition, because as I’ve seen during the years that I’ve been reading about this fascinating neurological condition, the definition of synaesthesia has been changing a lot over the years, and is still in the process of evolution and scientific development, as is abundantly clear from Dr Julia Simner’s recent journal paper about defining synaesthesia. I hope you find this as interesting as I do!


External references

Simner, Julia Defining synaesthesia. British Journal of Psychology. 2010 Oct 12. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 20939943 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20939943

Wikipedia contributors Synesthesia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Synesthesia&oldid=439113699


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