Synaesthesia: When Monday has a colour
Translated by Ελισάβετ Κεχαγιά
Based on the original article in Greek by Κατερίνα Χριστοδούλου
According to Wassily Kandinsky, “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul”.
A few months ago, I found myself in the library of Panteion University, Athens searching for certain books when my gaze fell upon an extremely unique title that read “The frog that croaked blue”, written by Jamie Ward and edited by Argiro Vataki and Samartzi Stavroula. It immediately caught my attention and intrigued so that I wanted to find out the subject matter of such an eccentric and curious title. This was my first theoretical contact with the world of Synaesthesia.
My first practical contact was a few days later, when I was invited to participate in an experiment conducted by Dr. Vataki of the Faculty of Methodology, History and Theory of Science of the National and Kapodistrian University, Athens. Upon engaging in conversation with one of the postgraduate students, I was informed on the research courses followed by the MultiTimeLab (http://www.argirovatakis.com), and to my amazement found out that they also deal with the special and bizarre phenomenon that I had chanced upon but a few days earlier. Since I wanted to contribute to the research and enrich not only my own but also the national understanding of Synaesthesia, I requested to collaborate with Dr. Vataki as a volunteer in order to assist the process.
Chances are this is an unknown term for most of you, while others may think of it as a dysfunction of the human body. It could very well be that you are a synesthete and have no clue. No matter the case, the answer is this: Synaesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which sensory or cognitive stimulation, such as the sound of a note or a day of the week, leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In other words, the senses are combined.
There exist various types of Synaesthesia, since the combinations of the senses are not fixed. Nevertheless, some types are more frequent than others such as “seeing” sounds and automatically visualizing numbers with specific colours. It should be noted that it is a real time experience that only 4% of the general population experiences, and follows the synesthete throughout their life, but may however fade during or after adulthood.
The research that revolves around this specific phenomenon unofficially dates back to 1689, when the first case was reported by John Locke in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Quite paradoxically, it is only during the last decades that a more systematic approach has been espoused. A great number of academic institutions, non-Greek in their majority, deals with this matter and by collaborating with synesthetes attempts to comprehend what they experience, all the while trying to identify its probable causes since it is not a common experience. Be it environmental, biological, inherited or acquired, all the causes are on the table and under the microscope for a more inclusive and complete definition of this complex phenomenon.
Unfortunately, up to now Synaesthesia remains unchartered territory. Even though it is an experience that can provide ample information on the human brain and thus offer better understanding of its function, it has not been part of the Greek academic agenda and the ignorance surrounding it is great. It is only recently, in 2009 that a research team was put together by frontrunner Dr. Vataki to study both Synaesthesia and synesthetes. For this reason a website was created, http://www.synesthesia.gr/, aiming to promote research on this field, provide information and constitute a channel of communication between Greek synesthetes and the scientific team.
The team’s efforts though remained unsuccessful, since the necessary number of synesthetes couldn’t be obtained in order for a complete and valid piece of solid-Greek research to be achieved. This is to be attributed either to ignorance or fear, and needless to say without satisfactory feedback from the audience the research was left hanging in midair.
The fortunate turn of events that brought me to the Faculty of Methodology, History and Theory of Science where I came in touch with this magical, multisensory world, also brought me close to the cruel and disappointing reality. The research in question couldn’t go on, simply because the term Synaesthesia was absent from the cognitive and everyday vocabulary of the Greek population, thus rendering the support of synesthetes in distress impossible.
Such an interesting matter knowledge-wise could universally contribute to cognitive neuroscience, and certainly does not belong on a library shelf bound to remain dormant while foreign bibliographies are getting bigger by the minute. This knowledge allows Synaesthesia-literate countries to deal accordingly with social and personal needs alike. This this doesn’t have to be viewed from afar, and the recipe is simple: Read, educate yourself, explore.
Αν επιθυμείς να διεκδικήσεις υποτροφίες στην Ελλάδα ή το εξωτερικό, ο Οδηγός Υποτροφιών του citycampus που μόλις κυκλοφόρησε σου προσφέρει ό,τι χρειάζεσαι!
Θέλεις να ενημερώνεσαι έγκυρα και κυρίως έγκαιρα με το πάτημα ενός κουμπιού; Κατέβασε την εφαρμογή μας από το Playstore (citycampus.gr) και διάβασε όλα τα νέα άρθρα εύκολα και γρήγορα!