Human anatomy survey explores synesthesia

Human anatomy classes conducted a survey to discover the presence of synesthesia, a syndrome that results in the blending of the five senses, in students on campus. For example, Synesthetes may associate colors with numbers, tastes, shapes, or sounds, said human anatomy teacher Walt Werner.

First and second period classes polled students in the quad by showing them a small square box with a seemingly random pattern of two’s and five’s for two to three seconds, said Werner. This “pop-out” test determined if the participant displayed characteristics of the syndrome. For synesthetes, the two’s in the box would form a pattern in a different color.

“It was interesting to see a concept in our textbook brought to life,” said Maddie Lenard ’09.

Approximately one in 200 have synesthesia, according to Werner.

Out of the 237 students polled, Sierra Lewis ’08 was the only one who was able to immediately see the pattern. Lewis, who was already aware that she had the syndrome, associates numbers with colors.

“The brain processes numbers and colors directly next to each other, and so sometimes cross-wiring of the brain occurs,” said Werner.

The human anatomy students also specifically surveyed students in the art department. The presence of synesthesia is more likely in people who are involved in the visual arts, said Werner.