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Synaesthesia

Do you know what flashing lights sound like? How about moving dots? Well apparently there are some people who can answer these questions and researchers have found a way to spot them.

US scientist and university lecturer, Melissa Saenz, made the discovery by accident when a visitor viewed her screensaver and asked about the noise it was making.

The screensaver was silent to most but to the visitor the display of moving dots seemed to be generating a sound too. It seems he was experiencing a type of synaesthesia, a neurological condition where the stimulation of one sense triggers a sensory experience in another.

There are many types of synaesthesia. For example, in 2007 a woman with a different type of synaesthesia associated personalities and genders to letters of the alphabet and saw shapes when she tasted certain flavours.

In this case, Saenz has used her screensaver to conduct further studies and found three other synaesthetes. Visual triggers such as flashing lights and moving dots caused them to hear a variety of sounds from whirring and whooshing to thumping and tapping.

Saenz hopes to make further discoveries by including brain imaging in her research.

Watch the video to take the test yourself.

Photo by Darkday - CC BY