Developing Synesthesia

Each person's senses differ in their sensitivity and perceptual interpretation.
Synesthesia is the capacity for a stimulus in one sense to evoke an image or response
in another sense. Smell and taste are synesthetically associated to one another in most
people. The smell of an apple prepares the brain for the taste of an apple when you
bite into one. With your nose stopped up, mashed apples and mashed potatoes taste
almost the same.
Natural synesthetes blend their senses in unusual ways. Some synesthetes "taste"
words, "feel" flavors and "see" sounds. For instance, one woman 'saw' a long chain
in the air as a kitten purred. A ringing phone displayed to her diamond-shaped blocks
in the air. Another woman heard the word Massachusetts and she 'tasted'
newspaper, or she heard the word New York and received a 'taste' of toast. One
peculiar case involved a man that tasted something sour only to 'feel' a pointed shape.
When he tasted a certain sauce, he said it 'felt' angular.
Perhaps a more common form of synesthesia involves seeing colors when certain
musical notes are played. Some composers "suffered" from this malady and made
use of it. Russian composers Aleksandr Scriabin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
both "sound painted" many of their compositions in an elaborate system of matches
between colors and keys. In fact, research has shown that synesthetes reflect a
consistency in their sound to color experience.
Studies have shown that during episodes of synesthesia, blood flow to the higher
cortex decreases dramatically, which indicates at least the phenomena is not involving
the cortical areas where your imagination is running wild. One example where a
synesthete experienced "dark purple triangles" when he listened to a "clicking sound"
revealed no activity in the visual cortex center at all. In fact, most research indicates
an increased blood flow in the lower limbic region of the brain during synesthetic
The Russian mnemonist, Shereshevskii, appeared to have no limit to what he could
memorize with the help of his natural synesthetic abilities. Every sound that he heard
evoked visual images of distinct form, color and taste. He could repeat learned
material in reverse order, and recall it without difficulty even years later. Since
synesthetes usually have better memories, developing a synesthetic skill can no doubt
enhance your own memory.
As an exercise to simulate a synesthetic experience, scratch a partner's back
through his shirt while he consciously attends to the activity. Let him listen to the
sound of the scratching and inwardly feel the sensation with intensity. Now while
your partner has his eyes closed, scratch your own back. Allow your partner to hear
the sound of the scratching while "feeling" the sensation of it for himself at the same
time. Then reverse your roles. Vary the tactile and sound combinations, but each
time have your partner feel it first and imagine it afterwards.
Now take the word IMPROVEMENT and think of it for a minute. Say it aloud
and play with it. Use it in several phrases. Roll the word on your tongue. Is it stale,
fresh or aromatic? How does it feel? Is it long, short, fat or skinny? Does it have a
texture of smooth, soft, hard, pointed, mushy or prickly? How heavy is it? Does it
evoke visual or auditory images?
Just as squeaking chalk on a blackboard evokes goose bumps on some people,
pleasant music can evoke other sensory impressions if you allow yourself that
capacity. Many people already associate high-pitched sound with bright colors and
low-pitched sounds with more somber hues.
Now assume a comfortable position and relax yourself completely. Now have
someone play a provocative piece of classical music that you're not already familiar
with. As the music begins, open up all your senses to it. Imagine that your skin is
hearing and feeling the texture of each note as the music flows over and through you.
Imagine your nose is smelling the flavor of it, and your mouth is drinking in each
tone, and tasting the savor of it. Visualize an array of colors swirling around you in
brilliant hues as the music is played. Use your powers of visualization and let the
music sweep through all of your senses. Allow a kinesthetic involvement, and move
your hands and body if you wish.
Write down what each note smells, tastes or feels like in emotional way. In this
way, the limbic system can orchestrate a fusing of the senses for the right brain's
musical experience. With continued practice, a synesthetic appreciation of music will
eventually develop in you.
Play various notes on a piano or other instrument individually and interpret each as
resembling sweet, bitter, sour or neutral. What color would you choose to associate
with each note? Do you perceive any visual images or forms when the notes are
When you eat something in the future, consciously 'attend' to the activity. Notice
the smells commingling with the tastes. Discern how flavors feel to you. Whatever
you do during the day, imagine a mixing to take place in your sensory involvement.
Although true synesthetes do not imagine their synesthetic episodes, this exercise will
bring you as close as possible to what synesthetic sensations are like.