Wednesday, May 30, 2007

ColburnI’ve read a couple of interesting articles in New Scientist magazine lately.

Lehrer, Jonah (2007) Blue Monday, green Thursday. New Scientist. May 19th 2007 Number 2604 p. 48-51.

Collins, Paul (2007) Have prodigy, will travel. New Scientist. April 7th 2007 Number 2598 p. 50-51.

The Lehrer article is about synaesthesia, explaining the latest thinking about the neurological condition. It is no longer considered a rare condition, in fact researchers are now claiming it is as common as affecting 1 in 20 people. Contrary to what is usually written about synaesthesia in brief descriptions in textbooks and reference books, synaesthesia is not just “crossed wires” mixing up the senses. This has been obvious to me for a long time. Forms of synaesthesia such as coloured letters or emotions that smell obviously do not involve a mixing up of two senses; they involve a mixing of senses with concepts or emotions. One synaesthesia researcher “now believes that synaesthesia is primarily triggered by concepts, particularly linguistic ones.” I think the colour-grapheme synaesthesia that runs in our family is linked with the precocious and advanced language and literacy abilities that are found in some family members.

The other (historical) article is I think written by the Paul Collins who wrote the interesting book about autists and synaesthetes titled “Not even wrong”. This article is about the life of number calculating prodigy Zerah Colburn, who wrote a memoir when we was an adult, and had 12 fingers and 12 toes.

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