This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.
In 2011, a majority of young people said they would rather give up their sense of smell than give up Facebook. Ten years later and oh how the times have changed.
Dr. Richard Cytowic knows life is not always black and white. About 40 years ago, the Washington D.C.–based neurologist was having dinner with friends when one told him that when he tastes food or drink, he also feels it in his face and hands. ”Oh, you have synesthesia,” Cytowic replied.
His friend was shocked: “You mean there’s a name for it?”
Synesthesia is a condition where one of a person’s senses — for example, hearing — is also perceived by another, like sight. At the time of Cytowic’s dinner conversation, the phenomenon was recognized among small circles, but there was…
Last summer, when I took acid with a close friend, she told me she could suddenly see the world in 3D.
“Don’t we always see in 3D?” I asked her.
“Of course,” she said, “but you know what I mean.”
And I absolutely did.
From the balcony of my third-floor apartment, we peered out into the branches of a nearby tree like sailors on the prow of a ship. …
About a quarter of the human brain’s mass is devoted to processing information from the five senses. Given that the brain plays such a central role in health, it’s not surprising that the five senses are closely tied to well-being.
But beyond merely proving those connections exist, researchers have recently started to explore ways to purposely manipulate them for people’s benefit. “Interventions based on what we see, feel, and even taste can have a seemingly dramatic effect on health,“ says Charles Spence, an Oxford University PhD researcher who runs a lab dedicated to studying the role that perception plays in…
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