provideanexperimentalleverforunderstandingmoreelusivephenomenasuchasmetaphor (Ramachandran & Hubbard, 2001a).Finally, the idea that synaesthesia is a result of drug use is only applicable to afew people, and seems to occur only during the ‘trip’. One explanation of this isthatcertaindrugsmightpharmacologicallymimicthesamephysiologicalmecha-nisms that underlie genetically based synaesthesia. However, it may also be that pharmacologically induced synaesthesia is not based on the same neural mecha-nisms as the congenital, lifelong experiences of
synaesthetes, in spite of thesuperficialsimilarities.Additionally,noteveryonewhousespsychedelicsexperi-ences synaesthesia; perhaps only those with a genetic predisposition will experi-ence synaesthesia under the influence of psychoactive drugs.Inthispaperwehavefourmajorgoals.First,wewillreviewsomerecentexper-iments we have done which establish clearly, for the first time, that synaesthesiais genuinely sensory (Hubbard & Ramachandran, 2001; Ramachandran & Hub- bard, 2000; 2001a). Second, we will consider a number of seemingly unrelatedfacts about synaesthesia and certain other neurological disorders and link theseinto a coherent new theoretical perspective. Third, we will discuss the relevanceof this scheme to certain enigmatic aspects of human nature such as metaphoricalthinking, art and the origin of language. And fourth, we will use this theoreticalframework to make several new experimental predictions about bothsynaesthesia and other, more elusive, aspects of the mind.The facts we propose to link together are the following:
1) Synaesthesia runs in families.2) Synaesthetes often report ‘odd’ or weird colours they cannot see in the realworld but see only in association with numbers. We even saw a colour-blindsubject recently who saw certain colours
upon seeing numbers.3) If a person has one type of synaesthesia, she is also more likely to have asecond or third type.4) There appears to be tremendous heterogeneity in synaesthesia. We haverecently suggested that there may be distinct groups we call ‘higher’ and‘lower’ synaesthetes that can be operationally defined and distinguished byour experiments.5) Patients with damage to the left angular gyrus have dyscalculia — they can-not perform even elementary arithmetic. But they can still recognize number graphemes.6) Theangulargyrusisaseatofpolymodalconvergenceofsensoryinformation.7) Angular gyrus lesions also lead to anomia and, intriguingly, loss of ability tounderstand metaphors.8) Ordinary language use is rich with synaesthetic metaphors (‘loud shirt’ or ‘hot babe’). This raises a fascinating question: What is the exact connection — if any — between metaphor and synaesthesia?9) Synaesthesia appears to be more common among artists, poets, novelists andcreative people in general. Why? What is the link? (Unfortunately, this
SYNAESTHESIA — PERCEPTION, THOUGHT AND LANGUAGE 5
See text below for references for these points.