Neuroscientists study synesthesia to find clues to neurological disorders

Other synesthetes see colors when they hear music, taste words before they say them or feel textures on their fingertips when they discern the flavors of particular foods. Virtually any combination between the senses is possible in the 1% to 4% of people who have inherited the condition.

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No one is trying to cure synesthesia — in fact, most synesthetes will tell you they love their synesthetic experiences and would never want to lose them. But scientists have begun studying people like Anders in hopes that what they discover about the way their brains are wired will provide clues for understanding other neurological disorders, like autism and schizophrenia.

“We’re using the synesthetic brain as a model for neural hyper-connectivity,” says Steffie Tomson, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “What we’re learning is that there are very specific delicate relationships between different regions of the brain that can cause it to function normally — or to tweak.”

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