What follows is an old post from my old old old blog, discussing the brain:
So yesterday I was looking up V. S. Ramachandran, the author of a book mentioned in the last post's recommended reading list, and found a list on his official site which had links to PDF articles he's written. Recently it seems he's been researching synaesthasia, which can best be described as a cross-wiring of the senses or regions in the brain.
Below are some of the most fascinating bits I gleaned from his research.
Initially they were concerned with the specifics of synaesthasia, whether it was perhaps a memory, or imagined or actual 'cross wiring' in the brain. One test they cite involves people who see numbers in different colours. Subjects were told to stare at a mark in the center of a screen, and a number was presented to one side, in the subject's peripheral vision. Most subjects could identify the number easily.
Next this number was surrounded by another number, a 5 with several 3s around it, for example. The resultant image was more complicated and normal people couldn't tell what number was in the center. Synaesthetes, however, saw red surrounded by green, and could deduce "It must be a five." Clearly then though the visual part of the brain is overwhelmed by the peripheral data, the crosswired parts - normally dormant - are active on the image. They received and processed the numbers into their synaesthetic colours when the vision center could not identify them.
A similar test involved a 5 made of tiny 3s. Depending on the synaesthete's focus, on either the larger number or the component smaller ones, the colour would change.
Also intensely interesting: colour blind synaesthetes perceive colours they're not physically able to see. One subject called them 'martian colours'. I can't help but feel jealous of a brain that can vividly see colours never seen with the eyes.
Research also showed that the synaesthetic condition is seven times more common in creative people than the normal population. Very curious!! I wonder how much of our history has been driven by defective hardware.
More of his articles can be found on his bio page, here.