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 9 2011: As I walked through school one day with one of my classmates back in 2nd or 3rd grade, I said to her, "I see the teachers in different colors and when I think of my friends, they look like a mix of bright, happy colors" and I remember being confused by those words after I said them, and laughing at the sound of them.
    This thread reminded me of that day.
    My mind works in ways I could never hope to understand,
    Instances like these I am vaguely aware of.
    It is the constant urge for their expression
    that led me to devote my life to art,
    to the gratification of the senses through different means,
    and the interpretation of my emotions on the page.
    This is the only thing that makes sense in the chaos..
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      May 9 2011: I wonder how much influence ridicule or the sense of being "weird' that was foisted on these kids contributes to the fact that many adults no longer experience synesthesias.

      I have no scientific foundation for the question - its just a gut instinct that ridicule and shame to talk about or express synesthesias could contribute to their extinction or supression.

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