Synesthesia is the name of a condition in which your senses get crossed up and you see colors when listening to music or taste things while viewing shapes or words. It sounds like a problem you’d want solved, but many people with this condition wouldn’t trade it for anything.

In, Ker Than quotes UK researcher Julia Simner as saying, “I think if you took a straw poll of 100 synesthetes, 96 would say they would never ever lose their synesthesia, that they like it and are glad to have it. Some say it is like having a nose or a little finger: It’s just there.”

Simner talks about what it’s like to be in a group of people with this strange ability: “I remember one participant, we showed her a [picture of a] phonograph, and she said ‘I know what that is (um,um) Oh! I’m tasting Dutch chocolate and I don’t know why!'”

Simner discovered that about 4% of people in the UK have at least one form of synesthesia. The exact cause is still unknown, but some researchers think that we ALL start out as synesthetes when we’re infants, and that these connections atrophy as we mature. Simner says, “There’s some suggestion that for synesthetes, this process doesn’t take place fully, and that some of those connections are left active.”

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