that forms a mental map. Numbers appear in exact spatial locations and patterns. This form combines spatial cognition with numeric cognition. Synesthesia is not caused by drugs, stroke, or any other influence—people are born with this neurological phenomenon. It’s estimated about 4 percent of the population has some form of synesthesia. Although the condition has been observed in people for about 300 years, it’s only been thoroughly researched over the past few decades.When American neurologist Richard Cytowic wrote the book The Man Who Tasted Shapes in 1998, he doc- umented hundreds of cases of synesthesia. The condition is most common among highly talented individuals. TheWorld’s on theTip of HisTongue While all synesthesia cases are fairly rare, James Wannerton of Blackpool, England, has a story that is more distinct than others—he has the ability to taste sound. It is a form of lexical-gus- tatory synesthesia , in which a flow of tastes can be triggered by conversation. In a history class, if Wannerton heard about Anne Boleyn, he would involuntarily taste pear. His mouth is over- come with distinct flavors at the mention of many British monarchs—a strange connection that helped him recall facts when it came to exam time. Some of his school friends’ names brought forth the taste of potatoes and strawberry jam. A date’s name gave him the flavor of rhubarb. When he thinks of his dad, it’s processed peas. When he thinks of his mother, it’s ice cream. Naturally, he vastly prefers his mother. In an interview with the BBC,Wannerton explained how he associates locations and direc- tions with taste as well. An unexpected flavor can signal that he’s made a wrong turn. He was once driving somewhere that always tastes like cake to him, but when he suddenly tasted ham, he knew he had gone off course and was driving in the wrong direction.WatchingTV or a movie can be very unpleasant because the constant stream of noises can trigger a barrage of reactions. Growing up,Wannerton, his parents, and his doctor did not understand his strange affliction. In

freaky phenomena


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