Synesthesia might be more common in people with autism
2013-11-20 0:00

By Katie Drummond | The Verge

Synesthesia — the mysterious phenomenon of "mixed senses" — is thought to affect a small fraction of the general population. But among people with autism spectrum disorders, the condition might be significantly more common, fascinating new research suggests.

In a study published this week in Molecular Autism, a team out of Cambridge University set out to test what had been anecdotally reported for some time: that individuals with Asperger’s syndrome often exhibited signs of synesthesia, such as "tasting" words or "seeing" music in the form of colors. They recruited 164 adult participants with autism and 97 participants without the condition, and relied on self-reporting to screen all of them for synesthesia. Of that study population, around 19 percent of adults with an autism spectrum disorder also experienced synesthesia, compared to 7.2 percent of those in the control group.

The most common forms of synesthesia reported by study participants with autism were "grapheme-color," or the perception that letters or numbers are colored, and "sound-color," wherein hearing a sound triggers the perception of a specific color.


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