Yes, You Can Teach Yourself Synesthesia (And Here’s Why You Should)

Brit Brogaard has had synesthesia, a neurological condition in which different senses combine in unusual ways, for as long as she can remember.

We often think of synesthesia as “seeing” sounds in different colors (also known as chromesthesia). But Brogaard experiences a more uncommon form of the condition, in which fearful thoughts cause an image of a creepy landscape to appear before her eyes.

“The fear-induced synesthetic images look something like a landscape that’s projected out into the world about 20 or 30 centimeters from my eyes,” Brogaard writes in The Superhuman Mind: Free The Genius in Your Brain. “When the fear is strongest the images are extremely vivid.”

Now a professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Miami, Brogaard has studied many cases of synesthesia and other unusual cognitive and perceptual abilities at the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research.

As Brogaard and other scientists have observed, synesthesia can lead to remarkable cognitive abilities, including heightened creativity and memory. Famous synesthete Daniel Tammet — who sees numbers and words in shapes and colors — used this gift to set a world record, reciting the first 22,514 digits of pi from memory.

Brogaard herself knows well how synesthesia can be both a blessing and a curse. As a child, she was distraught by the recurring fear image — which she describes as “bluish green with spiky mountain peaks” — and her parents were concerned that she was having hallucinations. In high school, Brogaard finally figured out what was happening to her when she first came across the term synesthesia while researching a project on the science of color.

In adulthood, Brogaard’s synesthesia actually saved her life. One day, she was hiking along a trail in the Australian desert when the image blazed bright in front of her —> Read More