Abstracts + Schedule: IASAS Symposium Synaesthesia and the Student

The Keynote Speakers for Synaesthesia and the Student are:

Daphne Maurer: “A rainbow-coloured alphabet: A developmental perspective on synaesthesia”

(May 27th, 2022 10:00AM-10:55AM EDT)

Julia Simner: “Synaesthesia in children”

(May 27th 2022 02:00PM-03:00PM EDT)

Abstracts for the other scheduled talks follow.

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Anderson, Corin: (May 28th, 2022 5:40AM-5:59AM EDT)

Edinburgh Napier University

A Composition Exploration of Auditory-Visual Synaesthesia

My PhD is an autoethnographic exploration of how my music composition practice is influenced by my synaesthesia. As an auditory-visual synaesthete, I perceive music as coloured and textured shapes in my mind’s eye. The aim of my PhD is to investigate how my synaesthetic experiences affect the music I make, by producing an album of electronic music and critically reflecting on my composition practice, using an autoethnographic method proposed by Chang (2008). This paper will provide a first-person account of my own synaesthesia, and how it influences the music I compose, with the intention to increase and improve public awareness of synaesthesia and its creative benefits (van Campen 2010). Four key areas of my PhD will be discussed: (1) temporality and spatiality; (2) translating and reverse-engineering; (3) the impact of timbre on visualisations of shape and colour; and (4) the impact of timbre on visualisations of texture, weight, and state of matter.

Firstly, works of music that involve temporal and spatial manipulation, and their impact on the corresponding synaesthetic experience, will be examined. Secondly, I will explain how, through a process of audiation (Gordon 1999), I am able to translate visual images into music by reverse engineering my synaesthesia (i.e., thinking in the opposite direction my synaesthesia normally flows). This innovative approach to music-making has not previously been investigated in academic literature. I will then discuss timbre and its impact on the shape and colour of my synaesthetic photisms. Compositions that prominently feature timbral mutations and transmutations (Roads 2015) will be reviewed, and their relationships with sound and shape will be considered. Finally, I will explain how visualisations of timbres also appear to have texture and weight, and materialise as solid, liquid, gaseous, or plasma-like substances. Although these properties tend to be understood tactilely, they can also be ascertained through (in my case, synaesthetic) visual observation (Sun et al. 2016). Several of my music compositions therefore explore how different timbral combinations induce photisms that appear to have a multiplicity of textures, weights, and states of matter.

By examining the four key areas of my PhD, this paper will demonstrate how auditory-visual synaesthetic experiences can be reverse-engineered in order to translate visual images into musical sounds, and how temporal and spatial manipulation and timbral transformation can affect the synaesthetic experience. Due to its artistic, scientific, and pedagogical implications, this paper may be of interest to musicians, psychologists, and teachers.

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Oscar Bowen-Hill (May 27th, 09:00AM-09:19AM EDT)

Bauer, Mathilde(1), Oscar Bowen-Hill(1), Magda del Rio(1), Charlotte Rae(1), Ivor Simpson(2), Chris Racey(1), and Jamie Ward(1): (May 27th, 09:00AM-09:19AM EDT)

(1) School of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK

(2) School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, UK

Developing Connectomic Biomarkers for Synaesthesia

Authors:

Synaesthesia has been postulated as an outcome of atypical connectivity (e.g. localized hyper-connectivity) but there are myriad ways in which that could be manifested. Using HCP (Human Connectome Project) protocols, we will create multiple candidate brain-based biomarkers based on structural and functional (resting state) MRI data. These will be used to predict group membership (synaesthete v. non-synaesthete) using machine learning procedures with cross-validation and direct replication of the most promising biomarkers. The project will create a freely available repository of 100 synaesthetic brains, including this imaging data as well as some behavioural measures (not included in this presentation). As of today, a total of 100 synaesthete brains have been scanned and various control sets have also been obtained. An analysis plan will be presented, along with preliminary results including the sets of data mentioned here above, based on pre-registered protocols (https://osf.io/ycqgd/).

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Berger, Joshua: (May 28th 2022, 03:00AM-03:19AM EDT)

Facilitation in synesthesia and the SYNCalc

In 2019 and 2021, we reported the first peer-reviewed example of a device that uses the concurrent perceptions of synaesthetes, the Digital-Colour Calculator (DCC). The DCC is a calculator application that allows the user to set the display colours of the individual symbols. Initially designed for a person with dyscalculia (Math dyslexia) and synesthesia, the DCC is based on the following principle. Matching signals are easy to process. In contrast, conflicting signals are more challenging to process. Indeed, this principle underpins many foundational demonstrations from experimental psychology. For example, this can be directly appreciated by considering what is known as the Stroop Test. In this test, participants read ‘colour words’ displayed in ways that either match or do not match their semantic meaning, e.g., Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Orange. A difference in participant reaction times typically quantifies the effect of this difference in signal information. Three types of results can be demonstrated depending on whether the signals being processed are congruent (matched), incongruent (mismatched), or neutral: the Congruency Effect is the difference in speed responding to a congruent and an incongruent stimulus; the Interference Effect is the difference in speed responding to an incongruent and a neutral stimulus; and the Facilitation Effect, is the difference in speed responding to a congruent and neutral stimulus. Notwithstanding the standard demonstration of Congruency and Interference effects at the group level in synaesthesia, which has been used to evidence its automaticity, group-level Facilitation Effects have yet to be reported. In this paper, we describe observing an apparent group-level Facilitation Effect on the reaction times of a group of people with synaesthesia (n = 40) during a synaesthesia Stroop-like task. This report adds to the evidence base supporting this notion: tools reflecting an individual’s synaesthesia could be of demonstrable use for many people with synaesthesia, rather than only those with a coincidental difficulty in a specific domain e.g., as demonstrated in our index case.

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Blake, Nina, and Brooke Taylor: (May 28th 03:20-03:39 AM EDT)

Helping Kids utilise their uBOS (unique Brain Operating System) at School

I would like to share our Australian parental journey of the last 3.5 years guiding our 13-year-old synaesthete daughter from school avoidance to successfully starting secondary schooling. Our daughter was overwhelmed and exhausted navigating school due to her colourful uBOS (unique Brain Operating System), which necessitated moving schools mid-year 5. Her new teacher and school transformed her educational experience and is the reason she is still at school. In discussion with this teacher, Ms Brooke Taylor, who also taught her in year 7 (last year of primary school) will provide information for this article about her classroom culture that transformed our child’s educational experience.

We have 3 synaesthete children, 16-year-old son MB and 13-year-old fraternal twin daughters EB & PB. MB & PB are doing well whereas EB’s education has been greatly impacted. EB started school well, until she turned 7, then struggled but couldn’t articulate why and never mentioned the colours she was seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling. Her reading aloud from an ordinary book (black text on white paper) severely regressed.

At 9 yo, we learnt of our children’s synaesthesia and discovered EB’s letters and numbers are on a black background. Matching this background was the key to unlocking her educational struggles. When she read white text on a black background aloud, the difference was immediate and I’d estimate it as a two-year reading difference. Over the next year we did try to bring in adjustments for her at school with very limited success and had two periods of complete school avoidance.

We moved EB mid-year 5 to a school with sound-proofed classrooms and corridors, more physical space/child and teachers with special education training. She re-engaged with schooling and regained confidence in MsTaylor’s classroom, whose motto was DORKs: Different Original Responsible Kids. This teacher and school guided her in how to advocate for herself and the courage to write using white pen on white-lined, black paper workbooks she needs to reduce brain exhaustion and match her synaesthetic mental palette.

Our shy daughter started secondary school in 2022 and after only 4 weeks she had the courage to put aside the standard white paper exercise books and start using her black paper books. She even had the confidence to tell her new classmates about her synaesthesia.

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Mathilde Bauer (May 27th, 2022 12:00PM-12:19PM EDT)

Bowen-Hill, Oscar(1), Mathilde Bauer(1), Magda del Rio(1), Charlotte Rae(1), Ivor Simpson(2), Chris Racey(1), and Jamie Ward(1):

(1) School of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK; (2) School of Engineering and Informatics, University of Sussex, UK

Developing a Synaesthesia-type Cognitive and Clinical Profile

People with synaesthesia have remarkable ‘extra’ experiences of the world: words may have tastes, and music may be seen (as well as heard). These atypical experiences, whilst of interest in their own right, are important because they are indicative of the presence of a neurodiverse phenotype that extends beyond synaesthesia itself (e.g., linked to differences in memory and imagery, autism spectrum).

Through analysis of behavioural datasets gathered from two sets of questionnaires and a set of HCP protocol MRI imaging data utilising brains from 100 synaesthete and control individuals, we hope to develop a Synaesthesia-type profile.

Behavioural data included assessment with; Autism Spectrum Quotient scale (AQ), Glasgow Sensory Questionnaire (GSQ), Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI-3), Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), Impact of Event Scale – Revised (PTSD) and also a 5-item measure of Hypermobility as an exploratory factor. General cognition was also assessed through several measures: Big Five Inventory of personality (BFI-2), a two stage memory test that assessed both accuracy and confidence, an Alternate Uses creativity measure, Plymouth Sensory Imagery Questionnaire (PSI-Q) and the Ravens Matrices intelligence test.

After preliminary t-test analysis there are significant effects of synaesthesia on higher Hypermobility scores, Attention Switching problems, Attention to Detail, Glasgow Sensory Sensitivity scores, BFI-2 trait Openness to experience, more vivid PSI-Q imagery (Bodily Sensations, Sound, Taste, Touch, Vision, and Smell). There was also a significant effect on the Matrix test of intelligence. There were no significant effects relating to mental health measures.

The data from both imaging and behavioural datasets will be included in a repository of 100 brains made public for independent use and for the purposes of this poster only the data from the behavioural dataset will be discussed. 

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Candita Darling (May 27th 2022, 1:20PM-1:40 EDT)

Darling, Candita, Natalie Bowling, Michael Bannisy, and Shirin Levin:

California State University East Bay, Goldsmiths University, University of Sussex

I Feel Your Pain: Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Psychiatric Symptoms Associated with Conscious Vicarious Pain

People with Mirror Pain Synesthesia (MPS) report the conscious vicarious experience of another individual’s pain within their own bodies. We have encountered a limited spectrum of information on the clinical features of synesthesia and an even sparser body of literature regarding the phenomenon of mirror-pain. Here, we sought to address this gap of missing information by investigating clinical features such as sensory sensitivity, and symptoms associated with psychiatric disorders, in mirror-pain responders in comparison to the non-responding population. 52 Sensory- Localized Mirror Pain Synesthetes (SLMPS), who experience vicarious pain as a physical sensation localized to specific body parts, and 178 non-responders, who do not consciously experience vicarious pain, were assessed for differences in psychiatric symptoms. These included sensory processing sensitivity, as measured on the Highly Sensitive Person Scale, as well as somatization, obsessive-compulsive traits, interpersonal sensitivity, depressive symptoms, anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism as assessed on the Symptom Checklist-90. SLMPS showed significantly elevated sensory processing sensitivity, as well as higher scores across seven out of nine psychiatric symptoms that were assessed. The findings suggest that SLMPS are at an increased risk for psychiatric distress and insinuate that mental health concerns for the SLMPS population may need clinical attention and intervention. It also highlights the consequences of vicarious perception for mental health and wellbeing in the broader population.

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Umut Eldem: (May 28th, 2022 6:40AM-7:00AM EDT)

Royal Conservatoire Antwerp, Belgium

Freeing the Colors: Synaesthetic and Cross-modal Associations as a Model of Musical Discovery in Higher Education

The use of visual tools as aid to the personal musical practice is a part of the educative toolset of the music student. Such tools include visual and color markings on the score to indicate essential musical parameters and visual representations of musical ideas as a shorthand for the creative and analytic process in not only the interpretation of existing music, but also the composing process itself. While such visual techniques usually remain on a personal and subconscious level to the music student, there exists the potential of bringing the nature of cross-modal tendencies of the students to a conscious and collaborative level, facilitating further audiovisual group-based approaches to the musical practice. The experiences of musicians with synaesthesia is invaluable here, in both encouraging the synaesthetic experience to be a part of the musical process and also using it as the base on which a common audiovisual vocabulary is built. This enables the students to be more aware of their audiovisual tendencies in their own practices, lets them use it as a conscious method in their practice, and make stronger audiovisual connections possible in their own artistic activities.

In this presentation I will talk about my implementation of the synaesthetic experience and musical crossmodal associations in a musical higher education classroom setting as a model of musical and improvisational discovery. As a part of a course entitled “Painting Music: Graphical and Visual Scores in Practice”, I have given a class of classical music students lectures on the history and practice of graphical notation. Graphical notation is a non-conventional musical score that asks the musician to perform music based on given drawings and visual shapes, instead of a set language such as conventional notation. This gives more weight to the individual choices of the musicians and how they interpret the given visual stimuli in their performances. To supplement the theoretical aspect, each lecture included a workshop moment, where the students had the chance to not only play, but to create graphical notation and have a discourse on their own practices. This involved an examination of the subconscious cross-modal associations the students exhibited in their performing of the graphical scores (such as their tendencies to use similar musical gestures in interpreting certain visual and color forms,) as well as a discussion on the experiences of the present students with synaesthesia. In adapting their sound-color synaesthesia into these workshops, as well as providing a space for such students to talk about their experiences, it was possible to build a common audiovisual vocabulary shared between the students. This was then used in creating music based on graphical scores within the boundaries of such a vocabulary. As a result, the students were able to be actively aware of the musical gestures of each other. The use of visual elements in the musical creation process also became more refined in the individual practices of the students. The discussion of and activities centered around synaesthesia and cross-modal associations can thus have a valuable benefit to the development of music students.

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Carrie Firman (May 28th, 2022 6:00AM-6:19AM EDT)

Edgewood College, Madison, WI, USA

My Thoughts Appeared in the Sky: A Synesthete Meets the Aurora

Synesthesia (as well as other manifestations of neurodiversity) and the aurora have always existed, but until very recently remained mysterious. These mysteries have led to fear in some communities, and celebration in others. While cultures who experience the polar lights continue to pass down the traditional beliefs about their meaning, the scientific explanation we now have for the phenomenon is prevalent and accepted. Similarly, as our knowledge of the brain continues to grow, the integrity and singularity of each individual’s perceptual experience is gradually gaining understanding and acceptance.

While I experience a few types of synesthesia, my ability to perceive sound as abstract shapes with movement and color on the dark canvas of my mind’s eye has been the primary basis of my visual art and design practice since 2009. An avid traveler, I leapt at the chance to design a project that took me to a new location when the opportunity arose in 2019. That fall, I spent two months in the Norwegian arctic, studying the scientific basis, cultural connections, and human experience of the Aurora Borealis. Along with an essay describing these topics, I produced photographs and time lapses of the Northern Lights, which served as reference material for four digital art pieces. These motion graphics videos visually interpret clips of ambient instrumental music, chosen for their ability to trigger visuals with similarities to the aurora according to my sound–visual synesthetic experience.

Throughout history, there are accounts of cultures around the world expressing a range of emotions, interpretations, and storytelling when encountering the polar lights. Many societies incorporated the aurora into their belief systems, such as the Vikings, who interpreted them as the reflections off the shields of the Valkyries as they chose which warriors would enter the honored afterlife in Valhalla. On the other hand, there are records of aboriginal people of Australia (specifically the Gnai and Dieri) who saw the Aurora Australis as ominous or evil spirits. Such differences in interpretation are predominantly due to what colors and forms were visible and how regularly those people experienced the aurora. This is determined by the atmospheric conditions and solar presence at their latitude.

Upon seeing the aurora’s color and movement for the first time, I was struck by a rare, specific state of awe and recognition, until then only felt when viewing artworks by synesthetes which closely imitated my own experience. It is the only time nature has created such an encounter, and it was far stronger than expected. The aurora’s fleeting, layered, transparent, moving, and morphing qualities on a dark background all bear resemblance to my synesthetic perception of ambient music without lyrics, though the color palette of my mind’s eye varies more than the polar night sky. My work surrounding the Northern Lights has brought together art, design, science, history, and anthropology to explore the value of individual and cultural perception as well as the intersectionality of inquiry.

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Allyson Glenn: (May 28th, 2022 4:20AM-4:40AM EDT)

University of Saskatchewan

Dimensions of Sound: A Multimedia Collaboration Experiment

Two short animation films Above the Deluge and In the Fray were made in collaboration with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra (SJO), Canada, for a project called Dimensions in Sound, simulating the phenomena of sound synesthesia. This experimental project investigated how chromesthesia could inspire new music scores that in return could be interpreted by synesthete visual artist to develop animations. This project builds on a previous collaboration with the orchestra in 2018, when a 3D animation was made to include shapes representing categories of instruments – percussion, brass, and wind, to simulate the movements that the synesthete “saw” in her mind’s eye. The visual aspect of these projects – animation to simulate the experience of sound – was made with the intent to engage audiences to learn more about this neurological phenomenon and contemplate their own experiences of music.

The multi-media collaboration team included the author (a visual artist), music composers, SJO musicians, visual artists, and video editors. The project began with preliminary experiments – two music composers, Paul Suchan and Silas Friesen, presented the author with a series of sounds for synesthesia-specific responses. The composers then created scores that were recorded by the SJO. The films were created by first selecting open-source video footage capturing the floating, circling, and fluid shapes that resembled the visual sounds found in the music. Using a rotoscope animation method, the video footage was transcribed into thousands of drawings by the author and her team. In responding to the music for Above the Deluge, she investigated the shapes and movements of deep-sea divers and underwater sea creatures. For In the Fray she selected damaged vintage film that could capture the scratchy, painterly abstract shapes.

One of the objectives of the project was to present the films to a larger international audience through film festivals. After its release in October 2021, Above the Deluge has been selected for nineteen film festivals including Cinequest (USA). It has received six awards from London Movie Awards (UK), Five Continents Film Festival (Venezuela), Independent Shorts Awards (USA), IndieX Film Festival (USA), and LA Feedback Film Festival (USA). In the Fray was released in early December 2021 and has been selected for eight film festivals including the Canadian Film Fest and has since received awards from the Independent Shorts Awards (USA) and the Indie Short Fest (USA).

In June 2022, the project will culminate with a live concert event hosted by the SJO during which the films will be projected behind the orchestra playing the compositions. This event will be livestreamed and available on the SJO’s website. In collaboration with the Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (SDHH), the event will also include immersive elements for hard of hearing audience members. To do this effectively, the orchestra will position speakers to capture amplified frequency vibrations in the seating and sign language interpretations of the introductions and other verbal elements of the concert. The Dimensions in Sound project was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.

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Marina Karaseva: (May 28th, 2022 5:20-5:39AM EDT)

New ways of developing a sense of synesthesia in the course of modern solfeggio

The proposed conference speech is devoted to the methodological aspects of examination of the synesthesia phenomenon. The author will demonstrate various opportunities for practical application of the synesthesia effects in music education based on her own methodology. The main psychological degrees in ear training course will be identified. Position and importance of studying synesthetical perception will be emphasized in the context of the other forms of the music ear improving, particularly, stylistic hearing. Specificity of interrelationship between synesthetic perception and emotions in the process of listening to music will be disclosed. The speech will be provided with a table of the leading sensory submodalities which may be practically useful for music teacher who deals with ear training. Also, there will be some how-to recommendations concerning methods of studying synesthesia on different levels of music education.

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Jingyi Li: (May 28th 2022 02:40AM-02:29AM EDT),

University of Granada

The essential oils and related material

Based on the study of “Artistic Representation about the Synesthesia Smell and Taste of Coffee” (2019) and also the theoretical part from aromatherapy, in the last two years (2021 – 2022), I continued to study by myself the visual representation of the smell of essential oils and also their related materials with the theme of olfaction. As we could see, the vocabulary that we use to describe smells and share feelings sometimes is very pale. We can almost only use a “conventional, ambiguous metaphor” to describe a complex and subtle scent and how does it feel. The occurrence of synesthesia has broken through the limitations of general physiological factors to a certain extent, giving synesthetes to observe their daily experience from a different perspective and triggering thinking about new possibilities. What is reflected in me is that synesthesia gives me the ability to “describe smells in the language of pictures”. It needs to be reiterated that I am not against the advantage of language. Actually, in most of my works, there is often a combination of words and paintings, I just hope to improve the understanding and communication of the “delicacy and uniqueness of human sensory experience” through this complementary approach. So, this work aims to demonstrate the expression of smell with visual image and mainly studies the personal synesthesia visual manifestation of 67 odors, including 46 essential oils and 21 related materials, with a total of 90 experiences which including 23 repeated experiences of certain odors in the same or different conditions. With research method of smell the scents of different essential oils and related materials, capture the characteristics of each odor, and record the olfactory feelings through lines, colors, graphics and I also left some text supplements explaining in detail the situation, my emotional state and what may have changed during this period. After completing this step, I will combine the basics of aromatherapy if it’s necessary, classify smells with similar properties according to different classification rules, compare the similarities and differences in the image, and then further study the association and the possibility of causing differences.

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Cristóbal César Martínez García (May 27th, 2022 12:40PM-01:00PM EDT)

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Functional synaesthesias: A synaesthetic approach to understanding the relationship between music and architecture

As a Grapheme Synaesthete, Professional Musician and Composer, Master in Architectural Design and Visual Artist, I have created and propose a synaesthetic and pedagogical system in which the architectonic plan and the musical score converge in a graphic symbiosis which allows us to transform volumes and spaces to sound and silence and the inversion of this process. In this way, an architectonic building or a physical structure of any sort can be heard as organized sound and, inversely, music (organized sound and silence) can be transformed into a physical structure.

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Emily Pizzorusso (May 27th 2022 1:00PM-1:20PM EDT)

Pizzorusso, Emily(1), and Sean A Day(2):

(1) Vanderbilt University; (2) Trident technical College

Color my world: Identifying differences between females and males in types and clusters of synesthesia

We experience the world daily through our senses, but for some, these senses are heightened and intertwined due to a phenomenon known as synesthesia. There are dozens of types of synesthesia, but the most common is grapheme color. This is the association between graphemes (numbers/letters) and colors, which is exhibited by 64% of synesthetes. It has been reported in the literature that males and females experience this type of synesthesia at the same rate. However, most studies only examine female and male rates in the most common types of synesthesia, leaving 94% of the less common types overlooked. Thus, it is unclear whether this 1:1 female to male ratio holds true for less common types of synesthesia. To answer this question, public archival data was analyzed to determine the differences between female and male rates in various types of synesthesia. This study has one of the largest sample sizes in the literature. The data were compiled from 299 males and 923 females who collectively experienced 19 different types of synesthesia, falling into the five main synesthesia clusters. Findings revealed no significant difference between the prevalence of synesthesia amongst males and females for any type or cluster of synesthesia (p > 0.05). The average female to male ratio was 1.14:1, and females were not significantly more likely to have more than one type of synesthesia compared to males (50.49% vs. 47.49%, p > 0.05). Ultimately, research on atypical brains is crucial to understanding why we all perceive, act, and behave in different ways.

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Anton V. Sidoroff-Dorso (May 27th 2022, 11:20AM-11:39AM EDT)

Using Synaesthesia Quotient for Identifying Psychological Predictors of the Condition

We used a reduced Synaesthesia Quotient Inventory, Synesthesia Battery (Eagleman) and data obtained with inventories such as tolerance to ambiguity scales, personality psychological boundaries questionnaire (Hartmann), sensations seeking scales (Zuckerman) and temperament structure scales (Rusalov). We simplified the SynQ inventory to identify the number of synaesthesia types and their cognitive and sensory similarity/distinction, thus quantitatively ranging the individual degree of synaesthesia from 0 to 4.

A group of 55 subjects with congenital synaesthesia participated in the study with 55 matched controls. Each participant’s synaesthesia (or lack of such) was verified through taking the Synesthesia Battery. We applied Spearman’s correlation analysis and binomial logistic regression to build up a model of estimating the probability if an individual’s continuous data set falls into one of two categories of a dichotomous dependent variable – possessing or lacking congenital synaesthesia.

We built a statistically valid model (x2=71,7; p<0,01) with a high value of multiple determination (Nagelkerke’s R2 = 0,639). The overall probability of correct predictions in the model is 83.6%. Within the model we identified statistically significant values (p<0,05) of independent variables gained by means of four specific subscales. Three of the four subscales have been found to positively correlate with the SynQ. We conclude that not only the Synaesthesia Quotient is an applicable quantification tool but also that it can be used for reliably identifying psychological predictors of the condition.

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Jasmin Sinha (May 28th 2022, 04:40AM-05:00AM EDT)

Another kind of trinity: synaesthesia, high sensitivity, and giftedness

Describing synaesthetic perceptions answers the question: “WHAT do I perceive? WHAT is its nature, how does it look/smell/feel to me?” Putting such a perception into words is like taking a polaroid picture of a mind’s eye, displaying only a momentary glimpse.

A snapshot-like description of a synaesthetic perception alone does, however, not explain the intensity or the strong emotional link synaesthetes frequently report on their perceptions. Neither is the synaesthetic output providing any indications why it should be exploited, and for what purpose. But many synaesthetes are highly creative in the way they apply their personal synaesthesia in daily life. This leads to two important follow-up questions.

“HOW does my synaesthetic perception shape me, HOW does it make me FEEL, HOW DEEP do I feel it?” The concept of high sensitivity (Aron 1996) provides an explanation to the intensity many synaesthetes know so well and thus contributes to a much better understanding of one’s own personality. In addition, it can support tremendously an improved communication with a non-synaesthetic environment.

“What’s next? Now that I am aware of my synaesthetic perceptions, how can I best exploit them, what’s its use, and WHY should I exploit it?” Applying the concept of giftedness can be beneficial for pupils, young students and parents in developing creative learning techniques and taking suitable professional choices as well as for tackling an impostor syndrome.

The comparison of personality traits of synaesthetes, highly sensitive and gifted persons shows a remarkable overlap (Reichardt 2016). In my talk, I will show how this “trinity” perspective can be beneficial for the personality development of synaesthetes, with a focus on young synaesthetes that are in a learning and training phase and who are about to take decisions (e.g. professional), at young age, with a lifelong impact.

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Ninghui Xiong (May 28th 2022, 04:00AM-04:19AM EDT)

Painting Music Art Synaesthesia Studio, Beijing, China

Promote Synaesthesia Awareness through Games in Schools in Poor/Remote Regions

During 2012-2019, the author took part in some public charity activities organized by some institutions (Huayi Brothers Fund, Airbus Fund etc.). One of the items is to promote students’ synaesthesia awareness in schools in remote or poor regions. Unlike the usual synesthesia surveys, the author used cross-sensory and synesthesia collective games for all students (synaesthete and non-synaesthete) in order to examine how students can perceive any cross sensory response.

At the beginning, students felt at a loss in front of the things which were never mentioned in their lessons and did not know how to respond. But they were soon attracted by the novel questions such as, what is the movement of colors, what does color sound like, and what does the shape of Kiki & Bouba mean and etc.

Compared with the daily teaching mode based on knowledge transfer passively, cross-sensory and synesthesia practice can help stimulate students’ interest in their participation and explore their own expression ability by facilitating cross-talking in the brain according to neuroscience. It is believed that this will strengthen their independent thinking habits and become a starting point for cultivating creativity. In addition, in this process, the author has also designed a number of cross-sensory and synesthesia interactive installations, which can be used in teaching or can exist independently as artworks.

Register now! Synaesthesia and the Student

The International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists (IASAS) is honored to present “Synaesthesia and the Student” a two day conference focused on synesthesia and learning. This FREE event is organized around an Eastern Daylight Time audience on Friday May 27th, and West Africa Time/ Central European Time on Saturday May 28th. The IASAS in grateful to host this event in collaboration with the United Kingdom Synaesthesia Association, the Russian Synesthesia Community, and the German Synesthesia Society. Full details on our speakers will post shortly to our Accel Events conference platform; however, you can register for a free all access ticket now: tinyurl.com/syn-and-student

Convergence

The IASAS in honored to support Convergence, which will be hosted May 20th and 21st 2022 at the Royal Conservatory Antwerp. This seminar will deal with the incorporation of music on the multisensory and multidisciplinary stage as an inclusive medium. Researchers, artists, and anyone currently engaging with this subject are welcome to share their practices, experiences, and historical perspectives. Convergence is organized by Umut Eldem, Geoffa Fells and Giusy Caruso.

Synaesthesia and the Student

The IASAS has launched a call for papers for our virtual symposium Synaesthesia and the Student to be hosted online May 27th and 28th 2022, with the help from our partners at the German Synaesthesia Association, the Russian Synesthesia Community, and the United Kingdom Synaesthesia Association We hope you will join us!

2021 SSOA Online Symposium

Synesthesia in Africa: Discovery, Awareness, Research, and Outreach

We are honored to support a virtual symposium hosted by the Synesthesia Society of Africa in collaboration with the international Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists. Featured speakers include:

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Mahmoud Bukar-Maina, PhD, a scientist, educator, and advocate for neuroscience in Africa

Dr. Richard Cytowic, MD, MFA, in conversation with Dr. Sean A. Day, PhD, president of The International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists

Dr. Celsus Sente, PhD, lecturer, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Abiola Ogunsanwo, founder, Synesthesia Society of Africa

Dr. Sheila Clare Butungi, DVM, SSOA secretary and polysynesthete 

Dr. Julia Simner, PhD, developer of the MULTISENSE synesthesia toolkit

Dr. Jamie Ward, PhD, director, University of Sussex Neuroscience 

Anton Dorso, founder and Science Supervisor, Russian Synesthesia Community

Tickets are available here.

Thank you Moscow!

Moscow may be known as the third Rome yet it is first in the hearts of participants who attended Synaesthesia: Cross-Sensory Aspects of Cognition Across Science and Art. This 5 day series of events launched October 16th, 2019 with a press conference at the headquarters of RIA Novosti, Russia’s largest provider of international news. Representatives from IASAS, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, and the American Synesthesia Association gathered for a lively dialogue moderated by Natalia Loseva, on the topic Synaesthesia: study of the phenomenon and its role in art and creativity. Participants included IASAS president Sean A. Day, art historian and associate professor at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory Elena Rovenko, artist and ASA president Carol Steen, synaesthesia historian Jörg Jewanski, IASAS secretary CC Hart, musician and neuroscientist Kaitlyn Hova, and IASAS board member Anton Dorso, head of the research group “Synesthesia: children and parents” at the center for interdisciplinary research of modern childhood MGPPU, and senior lecturer at Moscow State University for Psychology and Education.

A public lecture, concert, and exhibition at the Museum of Moscow followed the press conference. An installation featuring IASAS participating artists and including works by Art Sensorium surrounded the audience for an opening talk by IASAS president Dr. Sean A. Day. Concert pianist Dr. Svetlana Rudenko wowed the crowd with her energetic rendition of Scriabin’s Sonata No5, opus 53 in F sharp major, accompanied by visuals created by professor Maura McDonnell from Trinity College, Dublin Ireland. Kaitlyn Hova introduced the audience to her invention the Hovalin, a 3-D printed violin created in collaboration with her husband Matt Hova, and Christine Söffing immersed the crowd in an experimental music soundscape. A VIP gathering at Proviant Cafe closed out the evening.

Moscow State University of Psychology and Education hosted the initial two days of the symposium. After welcome addresses by MSUPE president Dr. Vasily Rubistov and Dr. Konstantin Zenkin from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Dr. Richard Cytowic, MD, PhD, MFA opened the conference with a keynote speech “Synesthesia: what do we know? What do we want to know?” Dr. Konstantin Zenkin followed with his presentation “The Musical: its essence and place in art”. Additional speakers on our opening morning at MSUPE included IASAS Science Director Dr. Romke Rouw, Dr. Jamie Ward from the University of Sussex, and Dr. Beat Meier from the University of Bern. 

Poster presentations were hung on the third floor of MSUPE and included papers in large scale visual format from Argentina (Gaby Cardoso), Australia (Joshua Berger), China (Ninghui Xiong), Russia (S. Y. Uzilov and J. Slovachevskaya) Scotland (Anna MasCasasdesus), and the USA (Appelusa Fleming-McGlynn, CC Hart, Anna Mantheakis). Topics included synaesthetic perceptions of musical frequencies, dance and synaesthesia, and differences in intermodal attention, among other topics.

Christos Parapakgidis, a multimedia artist from Greece, displayed his work “Solomon’s Case” at MSUPE. Visitors to the interactive installation participated in scent and taste encounters as they viewed a multimedia exhibit on Russia’s most famous synaesthete. Additionally, our art exhibit featuring works from an international selection of artists made the move from the Museum of Moscow to MSUPE. Interactive installations from Playtronica and Art Sensorium created a sensory feast for visitors to the gallery.

A concert at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory closed out the first day of the conference. Musical performances included Svetlana Rudenko, Kaitlin Hova and Matt Hova, and the Flowers of Hell, featuring Greg Jarvis, founder of the Canadian Synesthesia Association, with Daniella Friesen, Sean Matthew Berry, Stephen Head, and Ian Edward Thorn.

The IASAS presented more than 50 unique speakers at Moscow State University of Psychology and Education before moving on Saturday, October 19th to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory for the final two days of the conference. Our art exhibit was installed in a lobby gallery, and our speakers presented on topics including synaesthesia in regard to digital arts, olfaction and art, image, movement, and gesture, music cognition and aesthetics. 

The evening of October 19th 2021 brought conference participants together at the St. Regis Moscow Rooftop Hall for an elegant dinner. Kaitlyn Hova entertained the diners with a selection of tunes on her Hovalin. Polina Dimova gave us an impromptu performance of traditional Russian folksongs on the Hova’s glowing 3d printed violin.

Our final day of the conference included papers on cross-sensory aspects of cognition in comparative literature and musicology, screen arts and visual technology, along with a session focused on historical representations of visual music. Sunday’s presentations closed with a roundtable dialogue on the future of synaesthesia conferences and the topics participants would like to see addressed at the next event.

Synaesthesia: Cross_sensory Aspects of Cognition Across Science and Art closed with a concert in the Tchaikovsky Conservatory’s Rachmaninoff Hall with Playtronica’s performance of experimental music in collaboration with an academic chamber orchestra conducted by Gregory Carroll. Peter Theremin was a special guest performer on the eponymous instrument created by his grandfather. 

Moscow was a wonderful host for our 5 days of art, science and synaesthesia. We had almost 300 participants from 25 countries and presentations from over 100 individuals. These events were captured by director Ola Pankratova who is working with her film crew on a documentary about synaesthesia. We will keep you posted as we learn more about this exciting project. 

See you in 2021 for our Washington DC symposium and events!
CC Hart, IASAS Secretary

Press Conference in RIA Novosti’s Presidential Hall featuring Natalia Loseva, Sean A. Day, Elena Rovenko, Carol Steen, Jörg Jewanski, CC Hart, Kaitlyn Hova, and Anton Dorso.
Moscow at night; Svetlana Rudenko, Sean Day, Richard Cytowic; Sean Day, James Wannerton, Anton Dorso
Abiola Ogunsanwo, Jülide Gök, Mark Knaier, Annika Johnson; detail from Valentina Tereshkova by Timothy Layden; Carol Steen, Jasmin Sinha, Svetlana Rudenko, CC Hart, Christine Söffing
MSUPE President Vitaly Rubtsove, Joerg Jewansky, Richard Cytowic, Christine Söffing, CC Hart, Anton Dorso, Sean Day; Carrie Firman’s illustrations of Klüver’s form constants; Kazan Cathedral
Moscow at night; Tchaikovsky Conservatory oboist with Peter Theremin; Christos Parapakgidis
Svetlana Rudenko and CC Hart at the conference dinner, St. Regis Nikolskaya; St. Basil’s Basilica at night; Maura McDonnell, Svetlana Rudenko, Carol Steen, and James Wannerton
Still from “Synesthesia and Art” by Greta Berman and Carol Steen; close up of Christos Parapakgidis’ “Solomon’s Case” installation; art at MSUPE including works by Timothy Layden, Marcia Smilack, and Geri Hahn
Geri Hahn’s art from And, But, Or; Geri Hahn, Ann LePore, and Maura McDonnell; That Which Cannot be Said With Words, works by Carrie Firman