Our senses are a vital part of our physical make-up, and they are a very useful instrument in transporting messages to the brain for interpretation. The Eyes for sight, nose for smell, Ear for sound, Tongue for taste and Skin for touch. These sense organs are vital, and having one of them malfunction can be a great loss for the person. Today, I am not looking into explaining the sense organs one after the other, as most of us already learned this in elementary science, but I would be looking deep into a neurological condition.
You might be interested in learning more about the human sense organ. I decided to drop a link to study.com.
What would you say if a person tells you that when you say the word boy, they always feel a creamy taste in their mouth, or when they listen to orchestra, they just see a blue color. These cases could be overlooked by people who do not take into consideration that it could be a sign of a neurological defect, but it becomes a scarier information to process in when people say they can feel touch, pain, tingling and pressure in their body, when they see people feeling the same thing.
You mean Tom can actually feel touch when I touch Cynthia? C'mon, that is ridiculus
Evoking the Second Experience
Synesthesia is a neurological condition where an information received by one sense organ, triggers another sense organ not related to the receiving sense organ to react. In other words, with Synesthesia, an active stimulus will involuntarily trigger the second stimulus to act/respond. While you worry your head about the existence of this, it is good that you know that an article published in the National Library of Medicine says that about 2% to 4% of the world population suffer from this neurological condition.
A study published on National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that Synesthesia are automatic response which occur without the intention and control of the individual, which makes it uncontrollable for the individual to stop such actions. Synesthesia, according to a study in 1996 titled Synesthesia: prevalence and familiality , shows that Synesthesia can be hereditary. Another study in 2008 showed that 42% of the 53 recruited candidates with synesthetes reported that they had relatives with first degree synesthesia.
Different parts of the brain actually responsible for processing different sense information, like the olfactory cortex is responsible processing information about smell, the visual cortex of the occipital lobe, responsible for processing visual information, the auditory cortex of the temporal lobe, responsible for processing information on regarding sound, The Somatosensory Cortex in the parietal lobe, responsible for processing touch information, and the gustatory cortex in the parietal lobe responsible for processing taste . This being said, with Synesthesia, two parts of the brain responsible for senses are triggered. So when a person looks to see a blue color sea painting, not only will the primary part of the brain (the visual cortex) responsible for processing the action be stimulated, it will also trigger gustatory cortex of the parietal lobe thereby making the person have salty taste in the mouth too.
Having Equal Share of Other People's Cake
With Synesthesia, having two part of the brain being triggered instead of one could be worrying, but then it becomes a more tough match to win when people start to feel other people's pain, feel their touch, and other emotional aspect attached to it. Mirror Touch Synesthesia is a tactile sensation felt by a person at the opposite side of their body, as a result of seeing another person being touched. The touch is felt in as when the patient is mirroring the person being touched (If a person sees someone being touched in the right, they feel it in the left). A study carried out at the University of Daleware shows that 1 out of every 100 person suffer from Mirror Touch Synesthesia. The study was carried out on 2000 undergrads, and the result showed that 45 of them had MTS. Opposite to this, is the less common subtype, Anatomical Touch Synesthesia where the person experience tactile sensation on the same part of their body as the person the saw being touched (a person feels touched at the same location where the person they see being touched is touched). A Study showed that both Mirror Touch and Anatomical Touch Synesthesia patients feel the automatic sense from childhood.
To some point, while this disorder is disturbing, scientist debates that it correlates with empathy. The research shows that people's ability to empathize with others is as a result of a shared neural system where both the person emphasizing, and the person involved both share experience. While some agree to this phenomenon, (like in this article), some scientists disagree with it (tandfonline.com).
Chemically induced Synesthesia
While Synesthesia can be genetically inherited, and people with this disorder tend to either be born with or start knowing from childhood, some can be chemically induced. A study published in 2013, showed that chemical agents such as Mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD can induce Synesthesia, also alcohol, caffeine, and substances such as Cocaine can cause a temporary Synesthesia during the period when they manifest.
The Doctors and Therapists are Just a Call Away
This condition can be very difficult to live with, but till date, there haven't been a treatment to help people with it. While researchers are working on a treatment, it is good that you visit the doctor or therapist to help you manage it. Also, researches are still being done on Synesthesia to understand the phenomenon.