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Auditory Synesthesia

July 29, 2009

Some people hear sounds when they see something move.


The sound of motion. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

People with synesthesia process sensations from one sense, such as hearing, through another sense, such as sight. For instance, some people see colors when they hear music. Now Caltech neurobiologists Melissa Saenz and Christof Koch have discovered a new form of the phenomenon, called hearing-motion synesthesia. Koch says when people who have it observe a motion, such as star-like dots moving towards them on a computer screen, they hear a noise at the same time.

In fact, they are surprised that other people don’t hear it, because they thought, ‘Well, I thought everybody hears this, I thought this was normal.’

He says the regions of the brain responsible for perceiving motions and processing sounds are near each other, and this form of synesthesia probably results from cross-wiring between the two at a very early age. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.