Have You Ever Heard a Sound in Color?


Have you ever heard a sound in color? No, you don't have to be on drugs, but you do need to have synethesia. That's when a stimulus triggers more than one sense at the same time. Billy Joel has said he sees blue green colors when hearing soft and slow tempo music. Other musicians have reported seeing other color sets in response to music.

To see this in action, researchers took brain scans of people with synethesia. When music was played, regions of their brains linked to both sight and sound lit up. We don't know how the brain creates synethesia but it may involve increased cross wiring in the brain. These people may have brains that are more connected than others.

There also appears to be a genetic link. In a recent study, the genomes of family members from three families across three generations with sound-color synethesia were studied. Thirty seven genes were found to possibly explain synethesia but far more research will be needed to completely understand the genetics of this ability.

This is where the advancement of precision medicine should help, Its purpose is to gather as much genetic information on as many individuals as possible in order to understand disease and thus to create more precise treatment plans. For example, with the thirty seven gene variants in the synethesia study, one of the genes plays a role in axonogenesis which establishes the brain's wiring circuits during the embryo stage.

Even a study this small can offer leads and in this case, that this gene could affect enhanced connectivity in the brain. These revelations can help us understand normal brain function and offer insights into neurological diseases that will someday improve the lives of others.

More Information

Rare variants in axonogenesis genes connect three families with sound'color synesthesia
Our physical senses are separated not only into distinct experiences but also into specialized regions within the cerebral cortex. Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon that causes unusual links between sensory experiences, and its molecular basis is completely unknown. We demonstrate that three families who experience color when listening to sounds are connected by rare genetic variants affecting genes that contribute to axonogenesis, a process essential for neuronal connections within and across brain regions...