Why do people listen to crazy people

Special sensory perception Synesthesia: hearing colors, tasting sounds

When Lisa-Marie Leuteritz was a child, her days of the week were colored and provided with pictures. On Mondays the church in her home village wore a ribbon, Wednesday was red, Friday green. Sounds crazy, but it's not. Because Lisa-Marie Leuteritz has synesthesia - a neurological phenomenon that occurs in around four percent of all people. Leuteritz only found out what synesthesia actually was in his mid-twenties.

Synesthesia is inherited in most cases

"At some point at a family reunion, my dad asked me: 'What color is the 1 on you?' I said, 'White.' And my aunt said: 'It's yellow for me,' "the 29-year-old remembers. "Everyone else at the table looked at us in complete amazement: 'What? What are you talking about?' They couldn't understand at all that numbers are color. "

Everyone else at the table looked at us in complete amazement: 'What? What are you talking about? '

Lisa-Marie Leuteritz

Synesthesia is inherited in Lisa-Marie Leuteritz. Your father and her sister have it. According to neurophysiologist Marie-Luise Schreiter from the Dresden University Hospital, inherited synesthesia is not that rare. "A mother can see a letter and the child can see a sound," explains Schreiter. "The gene carries the synesthesia - but not the species."

A recognized, demonstrable phenomenon

But what exactly is synesthesia? Schreiter explains: "Synesthesia is the coupling of two sensory perceptions that normally function separately from each other. This means that people with synesthesia have a normal perception - they hear something or smell something - and at the same time, always automatically, still have it an experience in a second sense. " It is precisely this simultaneity of two activated senses that is the basic requirement for speaking of synesthesia. In the magnetic resonance tomograph (MRT) one can clearly see how two different brain regions - for example the hearing center and the region for taste - are activated at the same time in synesthetes.

Synesthesia is simultaneous, consistent and automatic. That also makes it different from an idea or imagination. That is involuntary.

Marie-Luise Schreiter University Hospital Dresden

The 30-year-old has been working on the topic since 2013, wrote her bachelor thesis on it in Sussex and is currently researching it. According to Schreiter, there are more than 80 forms of synesthesia. The most common is "colored hearing". Music, voices, pronounced letters or numbers lead to the perception of moving colors - sometimes shapes. A tone can appear pink to a synaesthet, a voice turquoise, and an A red.

"Can't understand that it doesn't look like it in other minds."

In 1866 the neuropsychologist Alfred Vulpian used the word "synesthesia" for the first time, which is derived from the Greek words syn - together and aisthesis - sensation derives. People with this ability perceive it as ubiquitous and only notice it as something special in exchange with non-synaesthetes. Lisa-Marie Leuteritz from Schmiedeberg in Saxony is one of them. "The reactions are often like being crazy. I always explain how I see my days or my numbers. And I find it amazing that other people have no idea about it. I can't understand that in others Heads doesn't look like it. "

Hear colors ... and see feelings

But not only there it looks different too. There is no uniformity in synesthesia either. No synaesthetic system is the same as another - even if it is of the same form. In addition to "hearing color", geometric shapes can also be tasted or emotions can be visualized. The latter type of synesthesia is still relatively unexplored. Because how should that work: see feelings? One who knows this is Hannah Ewald from Leipzig.

I see feelings correctly in relation to the person. So, for example, I see that certain memories that preoccupy people are above them. In the form of a cloud that moves or that occupies a space. And for me they are a symbol of the presence that these feelings have. And when the feelings change in the person, of course the picture changes too.

Hannah Ewald choir director from Leipzig

Hannah Ewald only discovered two years ago that she was a synesthet - at the end of her twenties, she had been since childhood. But because the choir director did not want to be seen as "different", she suppressed her synaesthesia. Only when she read about it and realized: "This is not funny. It is actually really official and recognized" did she give herself permission to allow this. Since then she has not only perceived feelings and touches, but also music, sounds and noises as a color-form-structure-texture picture.

Theory: All people are born synaesthetes

There are various theories about the formation of synesthesia. One is that as babies we are all synaesthetes. Neurophysiologist Schreiter explains: "Babies up to six months can not separate their senses so well and must first learn: 'What is a voice, where is it different from being touched, what is smell?'".

This theory comes from the American neurologist Richard Cytowic. He believes that every person is born with nerve connections that provide a link between the actually separate areas of the brain. For example, the visual center is initially connected to part of the hearing center. These cross-connections later dissolve in non-synaesthetes. With Hannah Ewald, this connection never broke - although she suppressed her synesthesia. But she felt incomplete for years. Today synesthesia gives her support and orientation - in the truest sense of the word.

"I dance a lot and I always had problems with turning. Turning threw me off my mind. But after I first allowed: 'Ok, I can dance now and I can perceive these colors and shapes' I suddenly had a All of a sudden, these rotations were no longer a problem, as if all the coordinates were there, "says Ewald.

Famous synaesthetes: Kandinsky, Lady Gaga, Tesler

For Hannah Ewald, synesthesia is an expression of creativity and intelligence. Celebrities with synesthesia - physicist Nikola Tesla, composer Franz Liszt, painter Wassily Kandinsky, Lady Gaga or Chris Martin - support this assumption. And neurophysiologist Schreiter from Dresden also noticed something in her research on synesthesia:

"For example, these highly functional autistic people who can memorize Pi up to the 50th decimal place, they often talk about the fact that they perceive these places in a spatial arrangement and that then just go away. Even if you look at autistic people, it's over much more likely to find a synaesthet than in the normal population. " Synesthesia is much more than just colored numbers or colored tones. It is smell, taste, hear or feel with connected senses.