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A new study has shown for the first time that people can be trained to “see” letters of the alphabet as colors in a way that simulates how those with synesthesia experience their world. The University of Sussex research, published on 18 November 2014 in Scientific Reports, also found that the training might potentially boost IQ.

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

A critical debate concerns whether the condition is embedded in our genes, or whether it emerges because of particular environmental influences, such as colored-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 training program to see if adults without synesthesia 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-color associations to pass all the standard tests for synesthesia, most also experienced sensations such as letters seeming “colored” or having individual personas (for instance, “x is boring,” “w is calm”). (1)

Colours. Letters. Sounds.
We tend to separate them.
But we could not.
We could live in One.
We have just chosen not to…

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