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This is all more surprising since McAllister is blind! He lost his sight when he was 12, result of a degenerative eye disease. But he never lost his synesthesia.
Are we all born with joined sensation?
Though scientists can prove synesthesia exists physiologically, they still don't know what causes it. Some researchers think cross-wiring in brain produces phenomenon. Another theory is that everyone is born with synesthesia-that we, as infants, experience world as a jumble of interwoven sensations. Then, as most of us mature, our physical senses slowly become distinct and sharply defined, like images being brought into focus by a camera lens. With synesthetes this doesn' t happen.
For some, synesthetic perceptions seem to exist outside body. Carrie Schultz describes how she sees electric guitar riffs in purple swirls that envelop her.
For others, awareness is internal, in their "mind's eye." When Glenda Larcombe hears a truck backing up--making a beep- beep-beep sound--she sees beeps as a series of red dots. The mingling of senses is often difficult for synesthetes to describe. Larcombe, for instance, said red dots she sees when she hears beeping are not part of her actual vision. "It's not like I would see a red dot right in front of me-it's in my mind's eye" she says in an interview. She also reports feeling her interviewer's voice, "like a wave, like water, with yellow and orange."
Ex-journalist, Page Getz says "God is blue." She describes headache pain as a kind of greenish-orange, music by rock group Nirvana as having taste or sensation of Dr Pepper, and color after sex as static silver. She quit her job as a journalist because her editors' word changes often disrupted what she saw as a sentence's natural chromatic progression.
Everyone's got blended senses to a degree
Psychologist Carol Mills says this sensory-blending ability might be a normal part of all adult brains. "It may go on in all of us even if we don't have synesthesia," said Mills. "For example, if I give you a very high-pitched note and a series of colors and ask you to match one, you are going to pick a light color. If I give you a low bass note, you are probably going to pick a dark color. The difference is when a synesthete hears a low note, they see dark. When they hear a high note, they see a light color."
No firm figures exist for how common synesthesia is. The best estimates range from 1 in 200 to 1 in 20,000.
Drawing from the wisdom of native and ancient spiritual traditions, Keith Varnum shares his 30 years of practical success as an author, personal coach, acupuncturist, filmmaker, radio host, restaurateur, vision quest guide and international seminar leader (The Dream Workshops). Keith helps people get the love, money and health they want with his FREE “Prosperity Ezine” at www.TheDream.com.