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Disbelief is more resistant than faith because it is sustained by the senses. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Of Love and Other Demons
When someone talks to James he doesn’t just hear the words he also tastes them. John sees colours when he hears numbers. And Heather is able to make quick calculations because she literally sees her numbers around her. They all have a bizarre condition called Synaesthesia in which their senses are joined up. For a long time no-one took people like them seriously but now it turns out they’re not so different from the rest of us. And their condition may even help explain how we made that great evolutionary leap to develop language. Horizon: Derek Tastes of Ear Wax, BBC 2004
For years synaesthesia baffled the scientific community and no-one could quite believe it was real. ibid.
Dr Ward has also noticed another pattern ... James’ sympathetic tastes are from his childhood. ibid.
So we are all in a way synaesthetes even if we don’t realise it; our senses of vision and hearing are linked together within our brains. It’s just that some people experience a more exaggerated version. ibid.
Why? Can there be some strange evolutionary benefit to human beings in having senses that intermingle? And if so, what could it be? ibid.
Synaesthesia may be a more extreme form of something we’ve all had to develop. Synaesthesia could be a manifestation of how we have learned to work with abstract concepts. To manipulate numbers and ideas. ibid.
Could synaesthesia help to explain creativity? He [Professor Ramachandran] started to look at artists and their influences. Many famous artists have been synaesthetic including the jazz legend Miles Davis and the painter Kandinsky ... Take for example Shakespeare. Many of Shakespeare’s metaphors are synaesthetic. ibid.
He [Ramachandran] believes that our common synaesthetic ability to link sounds to objects may have been the springboard to language. ibid.
In this controversial test six ordinary people are deprived of all sensory stimulation to discover the impacts on their brains. Science has struggled for many years to investigate this question. Horizon: Total Isolation, BBC 2008
My name is Marcus du Sautoy. And I’m about to take part in a medical experiment – one which is specifically designed to rob me of my faculties. I’m going to be taken to the edge of awareness, and on the way it’s going to alter the sense of who I am. I’m hoping to find out what makes me me. Horizon: The Secret You, Marcus du Sautoy, BBC 2009
Cooked food lights up all our senses. The smell, the sight, the touch and of course the taste are amongst the great pleasures of existence. Horizon: Did Cooking Make Us Human? BBC 2010
Could cooking really have caused us to evolve? ibid.
The human ability to cook gives us a massive advantage over all other animals. ibid.
Welcome to the strange and wonderful world of illusions. Illusions to deceive your eyes, trick your tongue and fool your sense of touch ... These illusions hold the key to how our senses work. Horizon: Is Seeing Believing? BBC 2010
Synaesthesia is a mixing of the senses. A sensory experience in one sense can trigger an entirely different reaction in another. ibid.
Our senses help define what it means to be human. Blink: A Horizon Guide to the Senses, Kevin Fong, BBC 2010
How do we sense the world around us? ibid.
After thirty hours with no external stimuli they start to invent their own. ibid.
Smell and taste are finely linked. ibid.
Between Birth and Death it’s always been the same thing: the violence of life. I always think they are images of sensation. After all, what is life but sensation? What we feel. What happens. What happens at the moment. We are born and we die. And that’s it. There’s nothing else. We are born and we die. But in between we give this purposeless existence a meaning by our drives. Francis Bacon, cited The Art of Francis Bacon
Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Hubble
I suppose therefore that all things I see are illusions; I believe that nothing has ever existed of everything my lying memory tells me. I think I have no senses. I believe that body, shape, extension, motion, location are functions. What is there then that can be taken as true? Perhaps only this one thing, that nothing at all is certain. Rene Descartes
The senses are of the earth, the reason stands apart from them in contemplation. Leonardo da Vinci
Where the senses fail us, reason must step in. Galileo Galilei
How infinitely superior to our physical senses are those of the mind! The spiritual eye sees not only rivers of water but of air. It sees the crystals of the rock in rapid sympathetic motion, giving enthusiastic obedience to the sun’s rays, then sinking back to rest in the night. The whole world is in motion to the center. So also sounds. We hear only woodpeckers and squirrels and the rush of turbulent streams. But imagination gives us the sweet music of tiniest insect wings, enables us to hear, all around the world, the vibration of every needle, the waving of every bole and branch, the sound of stars in circulation like particles in the blood. The Sierra canyons are full of avalanche debris – we hear them boom again, and we read the past sounds from present conditions. Again we hear the earthquake rock-falls. Imagination is usually regarded as a synonym for the unreal. Yet is true imagination healthful and real, no more likely to mislead than the coarse senses. Indeed, the power of imagination makes us infinite. John Muir, The National Parks and Forest Reservations, Sierra Club Bulletin 1:7 January 1896
Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves. Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
For the senses wander, and when one lets the mind follow them, it carries wisdom away like a windblown ship on the waters. Bhagavad Gita
Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all. William Shakespeare, Hamlet 79-80, Hamlet to Mother
Mine eyes are made the fools o’ th’ other senses,
Or else worth all the rest. William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth II i 44-45, Macbeth
Why, then your other senses grow imperfect
By your eyes’ anguish. William Shakespeare, The History of King Lear IV v 5-6, Edgar
And as the morning steals upon the night,
Melting the darkness, so their rising senses
Begin to chase the ignorant fumes that mantle
Their clearer reason. William Shakespeare, The Tempest V i @65, Prospero
Scientists have suspected for a long time that what causes synaesthesia is extra connections between different parts of the brain. Dr Noam Sagiv, Brunel University
It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same. Pulp Fiction 1994 starring John Travolta & Samuel L Jackson & Tim Roth & Amanda Plummer & Ving Rhames & Uma Thurman & Bruce Willis & Christopher Walken & Frank Whaley & Eric Stoltz & Rosanna Arquette & Steve Buscemi & Harvey Keitel & Quentin Tarantino et al, director Quentin Tarantino
All the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,
And what perceive. William Wordsworth, Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, 1798
This was the first clear-cut evidence that synaesthesia is an authentic early sensory process, and it’s probably caused somewhere in the sensory pathways of the brain. Professor V S Ramachandran, University of California San Diego
The clue comes from the fact that synaesthesia is eight times more common among artists, poets and novelists. Professor V S Ramachandran
Our language is replete with synaesthetic metaphors. Professor V S Ramachandran