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Why B-Flat Tastes Like Cherries

By Krista Elliott

In grade school, we all learned what the five senses are: Sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Even though there are mechanisms behind those senses that are scientifically complex, the average Joe understands what these senses do and what the difference is between them. 

The differences, though, are not always as clear as we think. 

A Blurring of Lines

A lot of us are familiar with the fact that your sense of smell affects your sense of taste. The reason for this is that the flavor we get out of our food is actually a combination of the food touching our taste buds and airborne odor molecules from the food's smell travelling up our nostrils. That's why things don't taste as strongly when we have a cold; taking those odor molecules out of the equation removes part of what makes up a food's taste. 

All right, you say, that makes sense. There's a reason why taste and smell are intertwined. But what about taste ... and sight? 

All the Pretty Colors

As you read these words right now, the letters are all black, correct? Well, for some people, the lettering is every color in the spectrum. No, they don't have their monitor set to make this site look like a Geocities page from 1998. Instead, they experience a neurological phenomenon called synesthesia

With synesthesia, when one sense is engaged in a certain way, another sense will kick in involuntarily. So someone might see letters as having inherent colors. Or a certain sound may cause them to get a taste in their mouth. We still don't know for certain how it develops, or when. 

There are many, many types of synesthesia, with over 70 being identified in one study. Many types are extremely rare, but there are a few that are fairly common among synesthetes:

  • Grapheme-color synesthesia — This is the most common type of synesthesia, where individual letters and numbers are perceived as having a color.
  • Chromesthesia — This one is also relatively common, and involves seeing colored explosions, shapes or waves when certain sounds are heard. For one person a B-flat may look like a purple sine wave. For another, hearing a sneeze may trigger a blue firework in front of their eyes.
  • Auditory-tactile synesthesia — This is when certain sounds induce sensations in parts of the body. It's thought that AMSR might be a form of auditory-tactile synesthesia. 

Even though some would classify it as a medical condition, most synesthetes view their ability as a gift, and many have used it to further their creative pursuits in music and art. Synesthesia may be a blurring of sensory lines, but it provides another example of just how amazing the human brain can be. 

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.

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