Saturday, October 13, 2007

Synaesthesia is a neurological condition often associated with naivety (with regard to scientists)

A lot of people who have the neurological condition synaesthesia do not regard this condion as being a disorder. Some synaesthetes take issue with people who discuss synaesthesia as though it is some type of medical disease, even though acquired, non-inherited, forms of synaesthesia can indeed be caused by drugs, disease or damage. Some synaesthetes write that the condition makes their lives more interesting or enjoyable, and they claim that they would not wish to be "cured" of the condition if it were possible to make it go away. Many synaesthetes appear to naively assume that scientific researchers, and the world in general, will take seriously their claims that they are not sufferers who have something wrong with their brains. Some synaesthetes display a cynical attitude regarding the way the mass media depict synaesthesia, but expressions of explicit cynicism towards the attitudes of scientists and researchers are not so easy to find.

It is most probable that the majority of people who have any form of synaesthesia do not realize that they have the condition, and do not consider themselves disordered or preceptually impaired. Researchers used to believe that synaesthesia is a very rare condition, but now that properly designed studies are being done, researchers are finding that it's really quite common.

I've stumbled across this page about synaesthesia at the web site of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, which is one of those research institutions that are trying to find the "genes for" horrible diseases:

Regardless of whatever you or I or anyone believes, the boffins at Wellcome have described synaesthesia as a "disorder" which "often results in perceptual and cognitive dysfunction." The idea that something positive might come of synaesthesia is given the " " treatment twice on this page. They obviously don't take the positive side of synaesthesia too seriously. Synaesthesia is placed in the same category as "Neurodevelopmental and Neurological Disorders". I shudder to think why they are so keen to find which genes cause synaesthesia.


Patience said...

I found you via a comment you left on Joey's mom's blog, and wanted to just thank you for this blog. I've only started reading, but I can tell it will be a favourite.

I find autism as a whole fascinating, which is why I followed your name to your blog. But it was the synaesthesia that kept me here to read. I'm not on the autism spectrum--traits, yes, but no diagnosis or any likelihood of one--but I do have synaesthesia. It appears there is a whole body of research out there I have never touched, because I wasn't curious about something intrinsic to myself! I look forward to it.

Lili Marlene said...

Thank you for your comments, Patience. The autistic spectrum and synaesthesia are two subjects that I find endlessly fascinating, probably because there are still so many unanswered questions about both conditions. I also find these subjects amusing to study because they undermine the belief that know-it-alls such as psychoanalysts usually have; the belief that they know what's going on inside the minds of other people better than others know. I've never heard of any disciple of Freud making a diagnosis of synaesthesia, or showing an awareness of sensory hypersensitivity in other people.

I'll give you a tip about reading about synaesthesia; be wary of old information and oldish books and papers on the subject. Synaesthesia researchers are busy updating and adding to what has been a very incomplete and speculative body of scientific knowledge.