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ERIC Number: EJ839741
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jan
Pages: 8
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0006-8950
Early Detection of Markers for Synaesthesia in Childhood Populations
Simner, Julia; Harrold, Jenny; Creed, Harriet; Monro, Louise; Foulkes, Louise
Brain, v132 n1 p57-64 Jan 2009
We show that the neurological condition of synaesthesia--which causes fundamental differences in perception and cognition throughout a lifetime--is significantly represented within the childhood population, and that it manifests behavioural markers as young as age 6 years. Synaesthesia gives rise to a merging of cognitive and/or sensory functions (e.g. in grapheme-colour synaesthesia, reading letters triggers coloured visual photisms) and adult synaesthesia is characterized by a fixed pattern of paired associations for each synaesthete (e.g. if a is carmine red, it is always carmine red). We demonstrate that the onset of this systematicity can be detected in young grapheme-colour synaesthetes, but is an acquired trait with a protracted development. We show that grapheme-colour synaesthesia develops in a way that supersedes the cognitive growth of non-synaesthetic children (with both average and superior abilities) in a comparable paired association task. With methodology based on random sampling and behavioural tests of genuineness, we reveal the prevalence of grapheme-colour synaesthesia in children (over 170,000 grapheme-colour synaesthetes ages 0-17 in the UK, and over 930,000 in the US), the progression of the condition in longitudinal testing, and the developmental differences between synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes in matched tasks. We tested 615 children age 6-7 years from 21 primary schools in the UK. Each child was individually assessed with a behavioural test for grapheme-colour synaesthesia, which first detects differences between synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes, and then tracks the development of each group across 12 months (from ages 6/7 to 7/8 years). We show that the average UK primary school has 2-3 grapheme-colour synaesthetes at any time (and the average US primary school has five) and that synaesthetic associations (e.g. "a" = carmine red) develop from chaotic pairings into a system of fixed, consistent cogno-sensory responses over time. Our study represents the first assessment of synaesthesia in a randomly sampled childhood population demonstrating the real-time development of the condition. We discuss the complex profile of benefits and costs associated with synaesthesia, and our research calls for a dialogue between researchers, clinicians and educators to highlight the prevalence and characteristics of this unusual condition.
Oxford University Press. Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, UK. Tel: +44-1865-353907; Fax: +44-1865-353485; e-mail: jnls.cust.serv@oxfordjournals.org; Web site: http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Primary Education
Audience: Practitioners; Researchers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom