Two sensory systems working together

Do you know about synesthesia?

It’s one of the coolest brain things and beyond just liking to say the word, I’m always fascinated when I find someone else who is familiar with it or has experienced it.

Basically, synesthesia is a phenomenon that occurs when someone experiences a sensation because of stimulation from an unrelated sensory system. Whew.  Not sure if that makes any sense.

But picture a person who sees words and colors in specific colors or feels a surface and experiences a taste.  With synesthetes, two sensory systems (like visual information and hearing and touch) can become linked in unusual ways.

This article describes research on the relationship between hearing a sound and feeling a vibration. In some cases, the connection between the auditory and kinesthetic systems is so strong, the people could be experiencing synesthesia.

The neural pathways in the brain for these two sensory systems are firing together involuntarily.

Interestingly, one researcher discovered that even folks with normal hearing benefited from the combination of two sensory stimulations (sound and vibration) in order to hear very quiet sounds.

This is an observation I make everyday!

While synesthetes have multi-sensory experiences involuntarily, my students benefit from multi-sensory instruction that taps into kinesthetic, visual, and auditory processing.  As their brains develop stronger and more connected neural pathways for learning, they develop the ability to connect with sensory information much more automatically.

Now, if only I could figure out how to teach people to taste chocolate when they saw broccoli.  Then, we’d all want to be synesthetes for sure!


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