The cognitive benefits of time-space synaesthesia

SYNAESTHESIA is a neurological condition in which there is a merging of the senses, so that activity in one sensory modality elicits sensations in another. Although first described by Francis Galton in the 1880s, little was known about this condition until recently. A rennaissance in synaesthesia research began about a decade ago; since then, three previously unrecognized forms of the condition have been described, and hypotheses for how it arises have been put forward.

Two new studies now provide some insight into time-space synaesthesia, the least researched of all the forms of this fascinating condition. One is a case study of an individual whose time-space synaesthesia has an apparently unique characteristic. The second demonstrates that time-space synaesthetes are superior to non-synaesthetes in some cognitive abilities, and suggests that time-space synaesthesia may underly the savant-like abilities of people with hyperthymestic (or “super-memory”) syndrome.

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