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Brain, Cognition and perception

State of the art - Synaesthesia

What’s it like to smell pain and taste words? Jamie Ward on the unusual world of the synaesthete.

18 April 2003

What colour is the letter A? What does the number 1 taste of? Does listening to music, speaking or eating food produce colours, shapes or textures? For most people, questions such as these will either yield a look of bewilderment or an emphatic 'No!' However, when I have posed this question to our intake of psychology undergraduates at University College London, as many as 1 per cent are certain that they experience something like this. These students may well have synaesthesia.

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