TED Conversations

Debra Smith


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The Man who tasted shapes! Have you ever experienced synesthesias?

1. The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.
2. The poetic description of a sense impression in terms of another sense, as in “a loud perfume

Ramashandran the neuroscientist says that people who can experience this can be as common as 1:40 in the population and that it runs in families.

If you or someone you know has experienced music as colour or one sense informing another we would love to hear your stories.
If you know of artists that work on that basis please include them or their work as well.


Closing Statement from Debra Smith

The goal of asking this question "Have you ever experienced synesthesias" was to demonstrate and help us realize that we do not all see the world in exactly the same way. We often assume that if someone could just stand in our shoes they would see the world as we do. The existence of Synesthesias and people who experience the world that way demonstrates that even in the ways our brains work there can be substantial and significant differences.

Some people learned for the first time a 'name' for their experiences. Others shared the reality that the experiencers are not alone in what they experience. Some of us simply marvelled at the complexity and uniqueness of the human journey.

I am deeply grateful for the generous contributions of everyone who shared their ideas, experiences and insights. The links that people shared were informative and I learned from them as I hope anyone who participated did.

Being human is an amazing adventure! It is easier with a llittle help from your friends!

Thanks again to everyone! It was a priveledge!


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  • May 8 2011: I am one who has this. It is amazing. I make music and this has been with me my whole life. It wasn't until I was about 16, that I was decsribing this to a classmate and she told me that what I have is synesthesia. Ever since then I have embraced it. For me its not just music, but also other sounds like peoples voices and the days of the week. With music, it works like this for me.... I don't see certain notes and tones in one specific color, every time I hear that note or tone, rather it is the whole piece of music that I see as a picture in my head. Each instrument has a shape as to what I would envision that particular sound to look like and they are layered on top of one another. It is almost like there is a train passing by in front of me and on that train there is the music that I am seeing as it builds and add more intruments to the piece. So as the music builds there are more layers right on top of it, and when there are vocals on top of it I picture the person singing it as if they are in the background and the music is in the foreground. Each piece of music has a main color(theme) and all ther instruments have their respective shapes and colors within the main color that I feel and see when I am hearing it. Also, if I am hearing someones voice singing and I don't know what that person looks like, I imagine in my mind what I think they would look like. So I can hear something and remember what it sounds like, by remembering what it looks like. Its always the same picture every time. This helps when I make music. I wish I could paint so I could express what I see because it is so hard to explain. Also with the days of the week, to me they look like the shapes of the states on a map, and each day has a distinct shape that never changes. Anyways, I really love this site and it is amazing to talk about things that we all experience and get to share about it. Hope my view of this sheds some light on to what people might experience.
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      May 8 2011: Welcome Alex, Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Please read the rest ot the experiences if you have time and compare notes with others who have synesthesias.

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