Smelling sounds, hypnotically

I saw an article today about how scientists at University College London have found that hypnosis can trigger synesthesia–a mingling of the sense, such as that you see the number 7 as red, for example, or “smell” sound of a hand clap–in people who are otherwise free of the condition.

It had previously been assumed that synaesthetes, as they’re called, have extra connections in their brains between areas controlling the various senses. But this new research suggests that, instead, synaesthetes simply brain pathways that are less inhibited than other people. To test the theory, the researchers put volunteers under hypnosis and were able to induce synaesthetic experiences. For example, some volunteers saw colored numbers on license plates. And volunteers who saw the number 7 as red weren’t able to identify a black 7 written on a board–a test commonly failed by synaesthetes.

I’ve written about synaesthesia before and I’ve also been amazed by the concept. The study I describe above doesn’t seem to have any practical and/or therapeutic uses. Synaesthesia isn’t normally a debilitating condition that one seeks to cure. I’ve read the synaesthesia may play a role in creative endeavors like painting, music and other art forms. In any case, since learning about this phenomenon, I’ve wished that I could experience it. Now, under hypnosis, maybe I can.