Synaesthesia Discovery

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Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia


During my intensive synaesthesia research last year, I came across a synaesthesia type called “Mirror-Touch”. This type was discovered by University College London cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore in 2003, by mere coincidence.

In mirror-touch synesthesia, when another person gets touched, the synaesthete feels a touch on his/her own body. I started to recall a series of events happened in the past, and was convinced that Skye had Mirror-Touch Synaesthesia.

Skye is an ultra-sensitive child. He is sensible to his own feeling and other people’s feelings. He cannot handle any violence on TV especially when it comes to violence against children. He couldn’t handle any bullying either.

Since the discovery in 2003, Mirror-Touch has been one of the most researched synaesthesia types. Some researchers believe it may provide them some insight of empathy. Scientists compared Mirror-Touch synaesthetes with others, and found that those synaesthetes possessed a strong ability to empathise with others. This could possibly lead to a break through in the research areas such as autism and schizophrenia in which individuals can be lacking of empathy.

One night many years ago, children were having a bath together. Little Thomas was so naughty and deliberately splashed water everywhere. The whole floor was covered with water. We got both kids out of the bath tub and gave Thomas a little smack on his bum. The next thing happened was what we thought ridiculous at the time. Skye cried the whole house down. He was covering his own bum and running around the house naked like a little chicken. Thomas didn’t cry as he was so shocked like us.

Skye did tell me later on that he felt the pain on his own bum. I interpreted it as his love to Thomas. The research certainly has helped me to finally solve the puzzle.

One day a month later, he started feeling every movement of mine such as touching my face, moving my arm, and he was repeating exactly the same movements. He couldn’t handle after a few minutes and decided to go to the bathroom. His dad was having a shower. Skye immediately felt water running on his own head and body as if he was having a real shower himself.

Out of all his synaesthesia, this was the only one he wanted to get rid off. Fortunately, it has weakened significantly in the recent months. Although he still feels mirrored touch (actually should say anatomical touch for him) from time to time, the touch sensations are quite light and don’t bother him any more.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an urgent call from my parents. Apparently, Skye was throwing a tantrum which surprised me a lot. He cried so loudly that even my colleague who sat next to me heard his cry. After some patient wait, wait for him to be able to talk properly, I understood the cause. He was given five red bean balls for afternoon tea. But Thomas liked to have some too. So my mum took two out of Skye’s bowl and gave them to Thomas. So much of the “Empathy” theory. Oh well, he has his moments and is a child after all ……

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