Producer: Michael Schubert
Hearing Colours Seeing Sounds : Lessons from Synaesthesia
We are used to hearing sounds and seeing colours, but what if you could hear colours or see sounds. Or what if you read a book and each letter had a colour. Dr Anina Rich researches synaesthesia with an aim to understand the associating functions in our everyday perception. Although unusual, synaesthesia is not a disorder; it can provide us with a unique view of the integration that underlies perception. Synaesthetics may just be the “pioneers of perception”.
Associate Professor Anina Rich has two main streams of research. One explores the way in which the brain prioritises relevant information and ignores distraction – the mechanisms that allow us to pay attention. The other relates to the way the brain integrates information, both across the senses and within a single sense.
Synaesthesia, an unusual condition in which stimulation in one sensory modality generates an additional experience, provides a unique perspective of this integration. For example, in ‘sound-colour’ synaesthesia, a sound elicits a colour experience; in ‘grapheme-colour’ synaesthesia, letters, digits and words each generate particular involuntary colours. Although unusual, synaesthesia is not a disorder. She is currently conducting studies on grapheme-colour, sound-colour, and olfactory-colour synaesthesia.
PAUL BOURKE LECTURE 2014
As part of receiving the prestigious Paul Bourke Award in 2013 from the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, on 1st May 2014 Associate Professor Rich discussed her research on synaesthesia and the mappings we all have between our senses, giving insights into the way the brain integrates information for conscious perception of the world.
If you haven’t seen it or you’ve seen it a hundred times, it still works. The McGurk Effect demonstrates how we use visual information when we listen .. what we see … affects .. what we hear.