David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

The “Wacky” Mystery of Synesthesia

Question: What is the nature of synesthetic memory?

Siri Hustvedt: Well there's speculation, and it may be a little more than speculation now, that infants are synesthetes, and synesthesia is simply a crossing of two senses.  It's almost like a translation of one sense into another.  Famous examples are people who see numbers as colors.  Every number has a distinct color.  Synesthetes don't agree on which color.  But when a "7," for example, for some people is always green.  I do not have that kind of synesthesia, but in a way I think many of us have that when we read.  You know, when I read a book, I'm always seeing the people.  I'm making mental images to accompany it.  So that I'm translating the sight of those little characters on the page into visual images that I can take with me and keep. 

I was rather amused to read, during my research for this book, about something called "Mirror Touch Synesthesia" and saying to myself, "Well, I have that."  And so that is when people look at someone.  Something is happening to another person.  Say you look at someone being slapped on the arm.  And then the mirror touch synesthete has a sensation in the arm.  Not the same as being slapped, at least not in my case at all.  But there is a kind of mirroring experience so that the visual looking becomes the tactile impression in the body.  And I think you see it again going back to behaviorism and talk of it.  Before brain scans and before recent research into the brain, people were very reluctant to do any studies about synesthesia because it just seemed so wacky.  And so that's what happens.  Once researchers have some kind of hypothesis about neural networks in the brain and maybe that infants are all synesthetes and that as the brain develops and as its plasticity continues, most people lose that crossing over of one sense to the other, and some people don't.  They retain it.

The "crossing of senses," in perception and memory, was once considered too strange to study. Now scientists suspect it’s universal, at least in infancy.

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

Personal Growth
  • We spend 40 percent of our childhoods asleep, a time for cognitive growth and development.
  • A recent study found an association between irregular sleep patterns in childhood and either psychotic experiences or borderline personality disorder during teenage years.
  • The researchers hope their findings can help identify at-risk youth to improve early intervention.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

    Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

    • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
    • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
    • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

    Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

    Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

    Credit: Neom
    Technology & Innovation
    • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
    • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
    • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
    Keep reading Show less

    COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

    A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

    • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
    • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
    • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
    Keep reading Show less