• Miroslaw Sienkiewicz

Synaesthesia Honours Project: Hearing Motion Syneasthesia Experiment

Review of editorial article ‘Synesthesia: an introduction’ (Banissy, Jonas and Cohen Kadosh, 2014) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01414/full

First of all, this article guided me to another one about auditory visual synaesthesia: ‘The sound of change: visually-induced auditory synesthesia’ which I’m adding to my literature list.

Interesting fact: 60 variants (at least!) of synaesthesia are known (Day, 2013)

Authors of article shortly summarise one topic that has been touched in O. Deroy book (that I read and reviewed in my previous blog entries ‘Sensory blending: On synaesthesia and related phenomena’) about trials to induce synaesthesia: it may not be linked to developmental synaesthesia.

Well it was really short article.

Time to move on to another article: The sound of change: visually-induced auditory synesthesia’.

It’s about test carried on four individuals who does not have any known hearing or neurological deficits and are synaesthetes for as long as they remember. Theirs synaesthesia reveal as stimulation of hearing sense (they hear sounds) when they are exposed to visual flashes/motion. It’s opposite to auditory-visual synaesthesia where sound stimulate vision and it’s called ‘Hearing-motion synaesthesia’. Additional control group of ten non-synaesthetes is also tested.

Experiment try to prove or conceal if (hearing-motion) synaesthesia gives advantage in judging rhythmic patterns of sound compared to equivalent visual rhythmic patterns. On trials where subjects were presented with sonic flashes (simple sounds like beeping, tapping, whirring) in rhythmic manner (and they had to compare if two successive sequences are the same or not), both groups performed equally well. On the same trial with visual rhythmic patterns, synaesthetes (75.2% accuracy) performed better than non-synaesthetes (56.3% accuracy).

Figure 1. Test sequences. Tonal beeps stimuli at 360Hz. Visual stimuli: centrally flashed discs (1.5-degree radius). (Saenz and Koch, 2008)

All synesthetes reported sound perception like short beeps or taps during visual trials. One sound per each visual flash. Three out of four reported a change in tonality (consistency and strength stay the same). Synesthetic sounds became for them more similar to the sounds they heard during other test with sound stimuli.

Authors mention other experiments which suggest that ‘the brain may normally translate the temporal structure of visual information into an auditory representation in order to improve temporal judgments of visual input ’(Saenz and Koch, 2008).

This experiment is described in article: ‘Hearing what the eyes see: auditory encoding of visual temporal sequences’ (Guttman, Gilroy and Blake, 2005)


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Saenz, M. and Koch, C. (2008). The sound of change: visually-induced auditory synesthesia. Current Biology, 18(15), pp.R650-R651.


Banissy, M., Jonas, C., & Kadosh, R. (2014). Synesthesia: An introduction. Frontiers In Psychology, 5(1414), 1-3.

Guttman, S., Gilroy, L. and Blake, R. (2005). Hearing What the Eyes See. Psychological Science, 16(3), pp.228-235.

Saenz, M. and Koch, C. (2008). The sound of change: visually-induced auditory synesthesia. Current Biology, 18(15), pp.R650-R651.

#synaesthesia #hearingmotion #test #experiment

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