Some people can hear colors, smell flavors, or recognize shapes based on the temperature. Let’s learn more about synaesthesia, a rare sensory phenomenon.

Artists like Pharrell Williams, Wassily Kandinsky, and Vincent van Gogh have all recreated their own synaesthetic experiences in the past. Since the condition is not well-known, many synesthetes are afraid of being ridiculed for their unusual talent. Up until recently, researchers could only guess the origins of synesthesia. The most common kind of synesthesia, according to studies, is colored hearing, which involves recognizing sounds, music, or speech as colors. Most synesthetes say that they perceive these sounds “in the mind’s eye.” The researchers presented one synesthete with simple addition tasks, such as “5 + 2,” and their results showed that solving this mathematical problem triggered the idea of 7. The synesthete became aware of the color associated with that number as a result. Only a small amount of psychologists’ interest in synesthesia is focused on the study of the few individuals who have the condition. “Synesthesia may help us understand how the concept of similarity is embedded within the nervous system,” says Yale University psychologist Larry Marks, Ph.D.

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