Tuesday 8 July 2008


Waking up at odd hours of the night is something I do quite frequently. Sometimes I read until I drop off to sleep again. Usually my first response is to turn on my radio and listen to the BBC World Service. It's amazing what you learn at 2.00am!
Anyway, this happened tonight and I caught the tail end of a programme called Health Check. the discussion was about people who have the experience of feeling touch when they see other people being touched. This crossing over of one sense into another is termed synaesthesia.
Of course my first thought was the article on mirror neurons from yesterdays Science Service.
I also thought of the effect of sensing when you are being watched.
They went on to talk about synaesthesia for time. Some people see dates as coloured and arranged in ovals or circles. The presenter herself experiences this. But what made my hair stand on end was this verbal interction between the scientist and the presenter;
"It creates the illusion you're not in charge of your own brain. If that is the case who is incharge of it? "
Well I have my own "daemonic" ideas about that!
The programme can be downloaded as a podcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmes/health_check.shtml
I'll go back to bed now!


SM Kovalinsky said...

I myself suffer from insomnia all the time, Woodsprite! Yes, we are all of us always getting those chilling moments when time slows down, as we hear the Daemon being referred to as a mysterious, nameless X. And this is precisely the power of Tony's dyadic concept, and the entire Cheat the Ferryman thesis. He has a name, an order, and explanation, where others feel only a vague sense of an unknown agent behind the scenes! I keep trying to drive this point home, but am stymied at every turn. Well, I will battle on. Thanks your for the podcast and article links, Di. Hope you sleep well---nice post!!!

johar said...

Hey Di, Good Morning - I see we both had a bout of insomnia at the same time!!!

Excellent post, I recall some posts about a condition called Hyperthymesty and I believe that those with the condition perceived dates, times, numbers etc in a similar way as described in your post, that is, as colours or shapes.

Fascinating isn't it?!

Synaesthesia provides another example of our intimate links to each other, our Quantum Entanglement. There have been many reports of people 'feeling' the pain of loved ones who are injured or ill, even over great distances and this radio show has highlighted it beautifully.

You should contact the presenter and give them the heads up on Tony's book, especially as the scientist used the term daemonic in his explanation - amazing!!

Thanks for entertaining me during my slumberless hours!

johar said...

Susan Marie - Good Morning to you too, I hope you are OK and feeling better about things.

We're always here for you.

SM Kovalinsky said...

Oh, Hi, JoJo; good morning to you, too ( actually it is 11:20 PM here, but I will be up to the wee hours, I can tell). Thank you for your sweet kindness, and I am fine: I spend half my life getting into fixes, and the other half extricating myself from them, so it is par for the course with me ! Thank you again. Bye.

Robin said...

Hello girls! I'm just checking the blog from work and thought I'd buzz in on Di's great synaethesia post. Tomorrow I'll grab the podcast and give a listen, meanwhile there've been a few posts on Daniel Tammet His gifts are amazing!

I see months in an eliptical order with Dec/Jan sharing the 9 o'clock slot. My weeks are shaped the same with Sunday being at 9 o'clock.

I did a quick survey here at work and 7 out of 7 of us see them in different shapes. None of us see color.

How about you guys?

Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet 2

Pictures of the Mind

Robin said...

Don't bother trying my links, they don't work.

KARL! I copied the code you gave me. I'm rotten at these things.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad my insomnia has been useful tonight.

Now I'm off to work bleary eyed but at least I've managed to share something interesting! Thanks for reading my post and for your comments.

Hurlyburly said...

Even if Robin's links do not work i must show gratitude for the effort as i was about to do the exact sae thing.

This was how Daniel Tammet was able to recite PIE (3.14.........) to about a zillion decimal points. Documentaries on synaethesia are fascinating and i highly recommend Daniel Tammet's book "Born on a blue day" (this would be a tuesday)

Rosh said...

woodsprite....gr8 post!
i too suffer from insomnia....and u know...the things i read/watch at random have always been special, amazing and informative!
i wonder why that happens..?

Karl Le Marcs said...

Woodsprite: Thank You for posting this.

Everyone seems to have picked on the Insomnia element of the post (which given my now legendary sleepless state you would expect me to do the same), which is a shame as the Synaesthesia element is, to me, mostly ITLADic.

A particular friend of mine is hyper-synaesthetic. She smells colours, and sees sounds, feels taste and hears pictures. She writes some of the most beautiful poetry I've seen on this subject (which reminds me of a poem I wrote early last year when I was campaigning against some redevelopment work that was being planned in my beloved Camden Town; I'll place the relevant extract below)

"In Camden Town,
Where prejudice is frowned upon,
And Diversity embraced;
A modern and true,
"Tower of Babble";
Sounds abound!
A Synaesthesia seizure,
And home to my soul.

Your linkage of Synaesthesia to this Sunday Service's Mirror Neurons post is fantastic. And I would say YES.

Each lobe of the brain (Temporal, Frontal, Occipital and Parietal) has alternate functioning within empirical observation. Much research (within Mental Health especially) has been conducted to identify the area of connection.

The colour receptors send their signals to the Occipital Lobe that controls sight. Sound goes through the Temporal Lobe and touch through the Parietal Lobe. Although these lobes are distinct, they are located very closely together, and there is even a juncture above the lobes where signals from different lobes meet. Therefore, it would not be a leap of faith to assume that signals for colour can get mixed up within the junction where numerical computation functions. This mix up would be considered "higher" synesthesia, as opposed to "lower" synesthesia that takes place in the Occipital Lobe where both colour and the visual appearance of numbers reside together.

Karl Le Marcs said...

Johar and Robin: Thank You for identifying links to the previous posts you mentioned.

These I place below:

Hyperthymesty (1)
[by Tony]

Hyperthymesty (2)
[by Tony]

Hyperthymesty (3)
[by Robin]

Daniel Tammet
[by Hurlyburly]

Daniel Tammet 2
[by Tony]

Pictures Of The Mind
[by RAC]

I hope some of these links help.

Baphomet. said...

Insomnia used to affect me at times of stress and if i had a large workload the next day.I could never get my mind off things,it was as if everything was firing in my brain at once. But are we ever awake?

Karl Le Marcs said...

Baphomet: Yes we are awake, otherwise we couldn't dream!

And I'm seldom NOT awake, unfortunately!

SM Kovalinsky said...

Baphomet.: Your last sentence, a question: According to Gurdjieff, the answer would be, "No."; or thus for most people most of the time. Ditto for Kierkegaard, Nietzsche. It depends on what the awake state ought to be, teleologically speaking and thinking.

ra from ca said...

Interesting post and thank you.

Karl: Your blog links to previous posts never work for me. Any idea why? Is it just me?

Karl Le Marcs said...

Ra from Ca: It may be your browser! They work for me and everyone else (as far as I know), and you do read some of the articles from the Sunday Service, so those links must work!

If it is a comment link I would suggest right-clicking and selecting "Open in New Window" to see if that helps.

If you're still having problems, it may be your browser, so email me directly and I'll help you sort it out.

ra from ca said...


The links to anything outside the blog works but when I click on the links to previous postings I get a blank. I just tried right clicking and opening to a new window and still nothing.

Karl Le Marcs said...

Ra from Ca: Ruth, I'm afraid it is just you!!
What browser are you using?

Email me directly to save blog space, and I will help you as much as I can.

(ps, if you are trying the links on Robin's comment then they do not work)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad this post has been interesting to everybody.

Karl: It was indeed the synaesthesia aspect which fired my enthusiasm - the insomnia was just enabling me to hear the programme. (Although there was something Daemon inspired about turning the radio on at just that point in time!)

Your comments about the physiology of synaesthesia are precisely what I was thinking about when I posted it. Also the "telepathy-like" experience of feeling the sensation of touch when someone is observed to have been poked. Maybe the world would be a less violent place if everybody experienced this effect. Or perhaps this is something we desensitize ourselves to - infant brains allow this cross over effect more readily until synaptic patterns become more fixed.

Karl Le Marcs said...

Woodsprite: I'm glad you found my comments useful Di.

The state you mention is what I have often termed a "Synaesthesia Seizure", not only in the Camden Poem but also in some articles I have written within the Mental Health sector over the last 5 or 6 years.

My friend, who is hyper-synaesthetic is wonderful to talk to as she emotes such a vivid picture of perception. And she lives only a hundred yards away from a brewery!

Anonymous said...

Karl: I love the "Synaesthesia seizure" image for the multi-sensory vibrancy of Camden. It would be a good description of Delhi too.

Karen said...

I have alway's seen the day's of the week as colours: Mon/Brown Tues/Blue Wed/White Thur/Orange Fri/Red Sat/Black Sun/Yellow.
This could stem from infant school maybe my teacher wrote the day's of the week on coloured card? I really don't remember....
I also see numbers as colours:
1's/Blue 2's/Brown 3's/Yellow
4's/Black 5's/Red
6's/Silver 7's/White
8's/Green 9's/Orange.
Again, could be something I was taught as a child? never really thought about it until now....

Karl Le Marcs said...

Karen: Welcome to our little BLOG and thank you for your comment.

Your words are very reminiscent of those with whom I speak regularly who live with Synaesthesia.

Indeed your comment about childhood teachers and coloured text/crayons has been the subject of an article of mine published about 4 years ago!

How funny!
*ponders (in a light purple hue)*