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I recently watched an interesting video that was discussing conveying color to the blind through language. It implied that there may be a way to insert the sensation of color into a person's mind via a series of sounds.

I have looked for articles on this and haven't been able to find much. I was just curious:

  • Is it possible to induce a kind of auditory-to-visual synesthesia?
  • Are there any articles on this?

Link to video:

Yes I know :)

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I have edited this question because I don't believe this qualifies as synesthesia. Let me know if you think I've altered the meaning of your question. – Jeff Apr 2 '13 at 18:11
@Jeff I appreciate your interest, but I've decided to revert to the previous edit since I feel your contribution did change my question. I am essentially asking if there is a way make someone hear in color. Is there a term that you know of that conveys this idea better than synesthesia? If so, definitely feel free to edit again. – user1006 Apr 3 '13 at 0:04
i understand. my concern is that 'synesthesia' is a neurological conditions, and so it is impossible to 'induce synesthesia' by virtue of its definition (short of rewiring the cortex...). Perhaps just changing it to 'synesthesia-like symptoms' would suffice, or maybe someone else has a better suggestion – Jeff Apr 3 '13 at 0:10
also, could you possibly cite or provide a link to the original video if possible? it could help us figure out if a) your interpretation is simply incorrect or b) the claim isn't really a scientific one, etc. – Jeff Apr 3 '13 at 0:37
@Jeff Haha, well I have a guilty pleasure Youtube channel, vsauce. Not exactly the most reputable source of scientific material, but interesting nonetheless. The question now includes a link if you're interested. The wording of the question was my own. If the terminology was not quite right, by all means adjust it. – user1006 Apr 3 '13 at 1:04

I think the only documented case of this is Neil Harbisson. From my understanding he has a camera attached to an implanted bone vibrator and a processor unit that converts color to audible frequencies. I believe, although cannot find any references, that the implanted portion of the device is similar to a bone anchored hearing aid.

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First, a definition: "Synaesthesia is a curious condition in which an otherwise normal person experiences sensations in one modality when a second modality is stimulated." [1] There are two basic explanations for this phenomenon: the hyperconnectivity hypothesis and the disinhibition-unmasking hypothesis [2]. The former says that the condition results from excessive neural connections between two modalities, and the latter says that it results from a lack of inhibition of signals. A quick search reveals that it is indeed possible to induce this condition (with drugs, for example), and it isn't necessary to rewire any neural connections [2,3,4]. This is an example of how the brain transmits/filters information by many mechanisms, connectivity being just one of them.

[1] Ramachandran, Vilayanur S., and Edward M. Hubbard. "Synaesthesia--a window into perception, thought and language." Journal of consciousness studies 8.12 (2001): 3-34.

[2] Kadosh, Roi Cohen, et al. "Induced cross-modal synaesthetic experience without abnormal neuronal connections." Psychological Science 20.2 (2009): 258-265.

[3] Ramachandran, Vilayanur S., and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran. "Synaesthesia in phantom limbs induced with mirrors." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 263.1369 (1996): 377-386.

[4] Luke, David P., and Devin B. Terhune. "The induction of synaesthesia with chemical agents: a systematic review." Frontiers in psychology 4 (2013).

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