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Metamorphosis of Synaesthesia: Reflection on House Design to Taste Synaesthesia

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Recently, Skye became very interested in different styles of houses. Every time we go for an evening walk or run, he pays more and more attention to houses which have unique styles.

Coincidentally, last week at school, Skye’s class started a House Design project. Each child needed to come up a house design. Skye designed something that he considered very spiritual. When he was drawing, he started tasting rainbow trout. When he was about to finish, he tasted fairy floss as if he was treating himself a delicious dessert.

He immediately knew that he had developed a new synaesthesia type. He stood up and went to see other children’s designs. He noticed that the better a house design looked, the sweeter it tasted. There were a few very similar designs in the class. But even with a slight difference, he tasted something different.

This experience again is consistent with what is commonly believed that a synaesthetic experience can be triggered by a new learning experience. Does that mean that a synaesthete has more and more synaesthesia when he/she grows older? The answer probably is no.

Skye believes that on average, he gains one significant new synaesthesia per month, but loses one at about the same rate. Those ones he loses are regarded as useless ones by himself. He doesn’t think they add additional value to his learning or things that he tries to achieve.

In general, synaesthesia exists in more children than adults. There is a further pruning process which happens later in their lives. This pruning process can quite possibly weaken a person’s synaesthesia as reported by some synaesthetes. I was expecting a similar thing to happen to Skye when he was turning 10, but so far, nothing has changed much. As he now understands the world better, and understands what a non-synaesthete’s perception normally is like, he somehow goes through a different process in his mind, i.e., eliminating some what he considers as useless or unnecessary synaesthesia. Of course, some things cannot be just switched on or off so willingly or easily. However, I believe that human minds are so powerful that the owners, i.e., humans, can subconsciously go through a pruning process even with no actual brain configuration change.

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