Synesthesia: Where Arts and Science Collide

Tuesday, 4 February, 2020 7:00 pm
McNay Art Museum


People with synesthesia experience the ordinary world in extraordinary ways.

For some people each letter has its own distinct color; for others, words have tastes, the sequence of numbers glide through space, or music is an animated spectacle. In this talk, Dr. Jamie Ward (University of Sussex, UK) explain what causes synesthesia, how we can study it scientifically, and how it relates to artistic expression.

People with synesthesia have a distinctive way of thinking: their thoughts are rich in images (both real and abstract), their memories are more accurate, and they can notice things commonly missed by others. These differences stem from differences in their genes and brain architecture, and they have real consequences for their everyday lives. For instance, synesthetes are more likely to gravitate towards the creative industries. In most respects synesthesia can be regarded as a ‘gift’ that is linked to certain talents. However, it may also predispose to certain clinical vulnerabilities.

Through studying synesthesia we can learn about the typical mind and brain, and how our senses are richly inter-connected even in people who do not have synesthesia. Understanding synesthesia forces us to consider the possibility that there are multiple ways of being ‘normal’ of which synesthesia is but one example.

This special event is brought to you through a collaboration with Texas Lutheran University, the McNay Art Museum, and Mind Science.

Event Schedule

7:00 pm - Lecture

8:00 pm - Q&A

Synesthesia: Where Arts and Science Collide

Jamie Ward, PhD

Jamie Ward is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sussex. He conducts research in human cognitive neuroscience using methods such as neuropsychology, fMRI, TMS and EEG. The specific focus of his present research can be divided into three inter-related strands that all relate to individual differences in perceptual experience, and the relation between perception and other aspects of cognition (including memory and social cognition).

Dr. Ward's research group is one of the world-leading centers for studying the phenomenon of synesthesia (hearing flashes, tasting words, colored music, etc.). The research is revealing how individual differences in conscious perceptual experiences are linked to neurobiological differences and how they relate to cognition more broadly. His present research examines how synesthesia is linked to memory function and perceptual sensitivity.

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