Synesthesia: A Modern Day Superpower

In the world of science fiction there is almost no limit to the talent or abilities a superhero might possess. The word superhero itself has the power to conjure up many fantastical images and anomalies, and the characters who exhibit these qualities infuse the genre with a certain uniqueness and excitement. From an early age I’ve always been fascinated with stories of people who exhibit superhuman-esque qualities like super strength, speed, or mind control. One of the more interesting superhuman qualities I’ve come across is Synesthesia; a rare neurological phenomenon which allows some individuals to taste and (or) see the color of numbers, words, and even music. Naturally, this can be a very confusing concept for people who don’t have this ability and even within the Synaesthesia community there are variations to each individuals experiences.

Below are three of the most distinct variations within the spectrum, more on the subject of additional variations can be found here (LINK)

Synesthesia in numbers
Synesthesia in numbers

Grapheme-Color Synesthesia – one of the most common types; individuals associate single letters or numbers with a specific color.

Sound-to-Color Synesthesia – individuals experience a visualization of sound triggered by the different vibrations, which can include shapes and colors.

Lexical-Gustatory Synesthesia – one of the more rare types, individuals with this variation experience different tastes when they hear certain words or phonemes.

In his short superhero comic book series “Top Ten” Alan Moore draws inspiration from this natural phenomenon for one of his characters detective Wanda Jackson, who goes by the alias Synesthesia. In the comic Jackson is a member of  Precinct-10, a police task force formed entirely of super heroes, and displays an advanced case of Synesthesia which develops into a semi-clairvoyant super power.

Detective Wanda Jackson
Detective Wanda Jackson

I found it really interesting that Alan Moore used this particular real human superpower for one of his characters. In this case one could argue that fact really is stranger than fiction. I would like to think though that all imagined superpowers stem from some sort of natural inspiration; for instance one could argue inspiration for superpowers like super-strength come from real life human anomalies like the annual competition for the world’s strongest man, or super-speed similar to that witnessed during Olympic sprint competitions, even mind-reading superpowers can be attributed to human fascination with individuals who claim to see the future. In a way some superpowers could be seen as an exaggeration of  human qualities which motivated by either curiosity or fear, push the limits of our imagination. Individuals who possess Synesthesia make up a small percentage of the subset of the human population which does exhibit superhuman like qualities, whether or not they decide to put on a cape and use their powers for the good of mankind is entirely up to them.

In closing, for any readers who are still a little perplexed about the attributes of Synesthesia here is a short TED-Ed video that sums up the main points pretty well.

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.livescience.com/169-rare-real-people-feel-taste-hear-color.html

http://www.synesthesiatest.org/types-of-synesthesia

http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Wanda_Jackson_(Earth-ABC)

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