Case Study Q&A: Megan, 25, Female, Part 1

Case Study Q&A: Megan, 25, Female, Part 1

From our case studies page you can learn a little about Megan, a synesthete in the St. Louis area, who contacted us this summer after discovering our research. Here, in her own words, Megan tells us a little more about her life as a synesthete.Can you describe when and how it was that you realized there was something remarkable about the way you perceive the world? What were your first expressions of synesthesia that you remember?  I only realized that I had synesthesia because my grandpa told me. I remember once being upset in kindergarten because colored letters on blocks there weren’t “right.” I told the teacher that an A [on a block] wasn’t an A. I don’t remember what color it was in, but it wasn’t yellow. Therefore, it was not an A. My mom was frustrated because she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t say it was an A, since she knew I knew the alphabet. I only learned recently of some of my other forms of synesthesia. It took me thinking about it a lot and writing down my thoughts as I went about my day. I didn’t realize just how different I was until then.Describe the history of synesthesia in your family. You have mentioned that your grandfather was a synesthete. What is the story with that? My mother’s father was a synesthete. I asked his mother, my great grandma, about it, and she doesn’t like to talk about it—I guess it’s a generational thing. At least two of my cousins have it as well. My grandpa knew he was different growing up from what I understand. He was a computer programmer and mentioned his colored letters, etc. to one of his co-workers in the navy. His co-worker recognized it as synesthesia, and that’s when my grandpa had a name for it. He never mentioned it to anyone else until he read that it was genetic, on the internet some 30 years later. That’s when he asked all of his grandkids, “What is 3?” He and I shared colored letters. However, he also had colored hearing and perfect pitch. He could name any song by just hearing one note from it. We used to play that game a lot. You are a nurse. Are there ways that synesthesia affects your work, which makes being a nurse a different experience for you as opposed to non-synesthetes whom you know?  Yes. I am exceptionally good at picking up on others’ feelings. I can anticipate their needs more because of it. Sometimes it’s good, but sometimes not. It’s easy to help put a family at ease when they are stressed, but it’s very difficult to feel their emotions when they are losing a loved...

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James Wannerton on Synesthesia and Society

James Wannerton is the President of the UK Synesthesia Association. In this post, I continued an interview with him, specifically addressing about the UK Synesthesia Association.  What are the goals of the UK Synesthesia Association and what is your role as President? The UKSA was the world’s first association aimed specifically at and for the burgeoning synaesthesia community. Conceived in 1989 by pioneering synaesthesia researchers Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and John Harrison at Cambridge University, its initial purpose was to provide a starting point for researchers to discuss and exchange information and ideas and also to connect together researchers and new subjects for study. Under its present guise the UK Synaesthesia Association has expanded with demand as interest in synaesthesia has grown and it is now an available first stop for information and further contact regarding all things synaesthetic. Our goals include continuing to disseminate accurate and reliable information to all who ask and to actively encourage the study of synaesthesia in schools, Universities and specialist research centers as well as increasing our support for independent public arts projects involving synaesthesia. Has the UKSA been successful in encouraging synesthesia in elementary or high schools? The UK Synaesthesia Association is very proactive in its efforts to bring synaesthesia to the attention of those who work within the education system. We do this by providing updates on any relevant research findings to sources such as the Times Educational Supplement (TES)—a publication network aimed at teachers from all over the world. We also provide information to schools on any available documentary material across all media platforms and when requested, can supplement such material with personal appearances in order to introduce the why’s and wherefore’s of synaesthesia in situ for schoolchildren of all ages. This is certainly a very rewarding and efficient method of getting the correct message across and, presented in the right format and context, often produces an entertaining and memorable lesson that will long be remembered. I often hear back from students who have sat through one of these presentations dating back over the last seven years. It’s an approach that has produced a lot of positive results in terms of general awareness and understanding. One of our longer term aims is to establish a firm link between UKSA and other synaesthesia associations from across the world in order for us to work together to share information and knowledge and to hopefully create a truly international community. My role as President requires me to keep up to speed with the latest synaesthesia research and to be available as a point of contact for enquiries from academics, researchers, artists, writers, musicians, journalists and most importantly, synaesthetes themselves. I help set up and organize annual...

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Interview with James Wannerton, President of the UK Synaesthesia Association

In August of 2012, I conducted an interview with James Wannerton who has word to taste synesthesia. He is the President of the UK Synaesthesia Association. I conducted the interview in two parts. I began by asking questions about James’ personal experiences, in this case, about his taste-to-word synesthesia. After this introduction, the second part of the interview involved his own opinions about synesthesia, more precisely, the state of synesthesia in Europe and America and future endeavors for the UK Synaesthesia Association Annual Conference. How old are you? 53 Where were you born? Manchester, United Kingdom Do you have a family history of Synesthesia? My mother and younger sister both report mild forms. My sister perceives different typefaces in different colors and my mother sees days of the week in color. As far as I’m aware no other members of my immediate family have synesthesia. What is the best or your favorite definition of synesthesia? And, what kind of synesthesia do you have? For me, the most accurate definition has to be the very simple “Blending of the senses” because that’s exactly what my own synesthesia seems to do. Whenever I hear a sound, be it a word sound or an ambient sound, I experience a burst of taste and texture on various parts of my tongue – a real mouth-feel experience. This also happens when I see color. The sound may indeed trigger the synesthetic taste but this happens so instantaneously that to me it all blends together to form a whole experience. How did the synesthetic experiences affect your childhood? Did the synesthetic experiences help or hinder your abilities to perform schoolwork?  Along with the vast majority of synesthetes, I can’t remember not experiencing synesthesia so any difficulties I possibly had with pre- and early schoolwork would have been taken in my stride as does a child. It was certainly never mentioned in any of my school reports of me having any apparent difficulties. Whenever I recall any childhood memories they come back at me with what can sometimes be very intense flavors at the forefront which serve to help reel in the sound and vision of the event being remembered. So, if anything, my synesthesia possibly enhances my memory by providing me with such a strong memory hook. What I can say is that it undoubtedly affected my choice of friends. Now, when I recall the names of my childhood friends, they all have nice tastes attached. Can you give one or two names of those childhood friends? Some examples: Robert (taste & texture of a jam sandwich—with loads of jam); Simon (Sliced apple); Martin (Bakewell tart); Matthew (hard toffee)! The first time I became really aware...

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