Superpowers are real

Synesthesia is a real superpower

Superpowers are real

Yes, they are. If you don’t believe superpowers are real, consider this; what if you could taste words or see colors when listening to music? Artist, the hero of “We Want Our Genome Story,” can. She uses her “Listening Eyes” and “Observing Fingers” as extra-sensory powers. Alas, I don’t have them.

Yet, some humans do have unusual abilities, like seeing colors while composing music. They have genetic variants for a neurological condition scientists call synesthesia. Artists, poets, and musicians claim it as their superpower.

Meet synesthetes Christine and Gracy Olmsted, who shape their creative work with their synesthesia experiences. Christine is a visual artist who sees color when she hears music. “For Gracy, sound and color, numbers and letters, are interconnected.”

Listen as they talk about the challenges and joys of having a superpower on SynPod. It’s a delightful, new podcast “for people who like to imagine in out-of-the-box ways, and who enjoy the wonder and mystery of the human brain.” Do you have “chromesthesia, grapheme, auditory or spatial synesthesia?” Christine, Gracy, and their guests will explain.

Is there a gene for synesthesia? Not one, but many genes usually contribute to a trait, and that’s true for synesthesia. Scientists asked a family with the sound-color version of synesthesia to be part of a study to find the genes. They sequenced their DNA and compared the results to a family member without the superpower.

What did they find? Thirty-seven genes with variants that “relate in some way to the development of connections between neurons.” Scientists also found that synesthesia “appears to be more common among people with autism spectrum disorder and savant abilities.”

Scientists may not call them superpowers, but extra-sensory perceptions are real. Read more about them in Science Magazine’s “Synesthesia’s Mysterious Mingling of the Senses” and the open-access scientific paper about the research.