Some people can hear colors, smell flavors, or see shapes based on the temperature. Let’s find out more about this unusual condition: synaesthesia.

Many synesthetes are afraid of being made fun of for their rare talent. This is because the condition is not well-known. Researchers could only guess the origins of synesthesia until recently. Based on studies, the most common kind of synesthesia is colored hearing. It involves recognizing sounds, music, or speech as colors. Most synesthetes say that they see these sounds “in the mind’s eye.” The researchers presented one synesthete with simple math problems, such as “5 + 2.” The results showed that solving this problem triggered the idea of 7. The synesthete then became aware of the color associated with that number. “Synesthesia may help us understand how the concept of similarity is embedded within the nervous system,” says Yale University psychologist Larry Marks, Ph.D.

Josefa (Pepa) Salas Vilar is an artist with synaesthesia. She notices colors and movements in written words, sounds, and numbers. “I am a piece of a puzzle, and art is like finding my puzzle.”