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It Isn’t Just About The Colors

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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As Steffie Tomson says in her videos, synesthesia is a harmless (and, in fact, often helpful) condition.

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So why do researchers bother to study it?

Well, it’s a way to learn more about the brain. A lot more.

It Isn’t Just About The Colors-brain.jpg
More synapses than there are stars in the universe.

And while Steffie is deep into studying synesthesia now, her research interests actually extend further and deeper into how our brains work:

“Even if we come up with the answer for synesthesia, we’re going to have a lot more questions to answer, because we’re going to learn more about how those particular areas [of the brain] interact. And I think one of the things that’s really exciting for me is to move away from caring about how one area does one thing and another area does another thing… and instead to care about how all these areas work together as a network in the brain. I think that’s a much more realistic model for how we really perceive our world.

“I’m really interested in the question of how a child learns. So how do these network connections, these neurons, wire themselves up in a child? And how do they de-wire? Why are some children more talented at learning one way than another? What is it about a child that makes them a visual learner, as opposed to a child who is an auditory learner? What is it about the pathways that makes it necessary to get information in that modality versus another modality? Is it a factor of that particular network caring about visual input as opposed to auditory input? Or is there another area of the brain that’s overseeing all of those areas together… and it’s just listening more to one than another? There are a lot of different ways that this can be looked at. But I think that’s really an interesting question.”