#NeuroThursday is back this week to talk about the #neuroscience of #synesthesia. What does it mean for a letter to have an intrinsic color, for a number to have a distance? And why the heck would this trait evolve in humankind?
Synesthesia is when "stimulation of one sense automatically provokes a secondary perception in another." The secondary perception can be direct ("9's are red") or associative ("9's make me think of red"), either counts.
Synesthesia comes in countless forms, but color-based are the most frequent. The most well-known is "grapheme-color" synesthesia, where a grapheme (written shape, e.g. letter or numeral) has a color - like the opening picture.
The Madness of Brains™ has been in the news this past week with the Yanny/Laurel effect. Let's use this as a #NeuroThursday peephole into the mysteries of human hearing – via something called the McGurk Effect.
First off, if you haven't dug the Yanny/Laurel thing, there's a great explanation and manipulation up at the New York Times. nytimes.com/2018/05/15/sci…
The upshot is: some researchers got a group of people who naturally write with 1 space or 2 space, and made them read both kinds of text. The two-spacer people read a tiny bit faster when they saw 2-space text. But.
Now, there's an easy answer why this article is wrong. Let me start there and get it out of the way so I can then tell you something more subtle & interesting.
Proprioception is the original "sixth sense." It's a major sensory apparatus spread across your body, telling you critical information, but it's all so smoothly integrated you almost never have to think about it consciously.
I hope you all are ready to help me welcome #NeuroThursday back in action this week with a story about how you stay balanced - and the amazing things you accomplish with that ability!
This topic was requested by the illustrious @KJKabza, who wondered: "Are there special strengths of the human balance system (we all know that it is easily disrupted if you spin around)?"
Yes, KJ, oh yes. Your balance system is doing highly badass things all the time, quietly under the hood while you go about your life. Like the devil, its best trick is making you think it's not even there.
#NeuroThursday may have grown sporadic under my sciencejob deadlines, but it's back this week! Thanks to @tithenai, we shall discuss "the choke:" when you freeze up on something that should be precisely your area of mastery.
We've all experienced some form of this. You have to explain your process, and no words come. You have to perform (on the stage, on the pitch), and everything locks up. Once it begins, it's self-perpetuating: hard to un-choke while you're panicked about choking.
There's a fair amount of scientific research on this, from sports-science and psychology. But in some ways, the explanation is so simple, it's something we've already covered here: skill memory.