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Scientists Learn How to Teach Synesthesia (Let the Weirdness Begin)

Scientists at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, have demonstrated a nine-week training course that successfully teaches individuals to see letters as certain colors.

Scientists at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, have demonstrated a nine-week training course that successfully teaches individuals to see letters as certain colors, a classic variety of sensory crossover known as synesthesia. Participants of the study were asked to read texts for half an hour, five days a week, in which thirteen letters were continuously associated with specific colors. 


"The colour immediately pops into my head," said a subject who experienced some of the strongest effects. "When I look at a sign the whole word appears according to the training colors."

An unexpected benefit to learning synesthesia, the participants found, was a sharply rising IQ level. Study volunteers registered a stunning twelve point increase on IQ exams while a control group, who was not taught synesthesia, registered no increase. Olympia Colizoli of the University of Amsterdam, who led one study in which synesthesia was taught under laboratory conditions, said that "people with spontaneous synaesthesia also have better memories for information relating to their mixed-up senses," perhaps accounting for the apparent rise in IQ. 

As neuroscientist David Eagleman explains in his Big Think interview, there are many different kinds of synesthesia. The most common form is letter-color associations like those taught in the study. For Eagleman, it demonstrates how individuals can perceive reality completely differently from each other:

Read more at New Scientist

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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