Training can lead to synesthetic experiences, study shows

Training can lead to synesthetic experiences, study shows
Do coloured-letter toys lead to synaesthesia?

A new study has shown for the first time how people can be trained to "see" letters of the alphabet as colours in a way that simulates how those with synaesthesia experience their world.

The University of Sussex research, published today (18 November 2014) in Scientific Reports, also found that the training might potentially boost IQ.

Synaesthesia is a fascinating though little-understood in which some people (estimated at around 1 in 23) experience an overlap in their senses. They "see" letters as specific colours, or can "taste" words, or associate sounds with different colours.

A critical debate concerns whether the condition is embedded in our genes, or whether it emerges because of particular environmental influences, such as coloured-letter toys in infancy.

While the two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, psychologists at the University's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science devised a nine-week to see if adults without can develop the key hallmarks of the condition.

They found, in a sample study of 14, that not only were the participants able to develop strong letter-colour associations to pass all the standard tests for synaesthesia, most also experienced sensations such as letters seeming "coloured" or having individual personas (for instance, "x is boring", "w is calm").

One of the most surprising outcomes of the study was that those who underwent the training also saw their IQ jump by an average of 12 points, compared to a control group that didn't undergo training.

Dr Daniel Bor, who co-led the study with Dr Nicolas Rothen, says: "The main implication of our study is that radically new ways of experiencing the world can be brought about simply through extensive perceptual training.

"The cognitive boost, although provisional, may eventually lead to clinical cognitive training tools to support mental function in vulnerable groups, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD) children, or adults starting to suffer from dementia."

Dr Rothen adds: "It should be emphasised that we are not claiming to have trained non synaesthetes to become genuine synaesthetes. When we retested our participants three months after , they had largely lost the experience of 'seeing' colours when thinking about the letters. But it does show that synaesthesia is likely to have a major developmental component, starting for many people in childhood."


Explore further

New insights into synaesthesia

More information: Scientific Reports, www.nature.com/srep/2014/14111 … /full/srep07089.html
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Citation: Training can lead to synesthetic experiences, study shows (2014, November 18) retrieved 21 November 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-11-synesthetic.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments