On a late winter day in 1922, the sound of a gun shot resounded with a loud boom in the hills surrounding the house of three-year-old Edgar Curtis. The sound itself wasn’t out of the ordinary, since the Curtises lived near a firing range. What was extraordinary was the question the boy turned to ask his mother: “What is that big, black noise?”
The cross-blending of the senses, hearing colors or tasting words … that’s synesthesia. Once thought to be quite rare, neuroscientists such as David Eagleman estimate as much as 4% of the population may have some form. More at the link above, including a video interview with Eagleman.
When a friend tells you she had a rough day, do you feel sandpaper under your fingers? The brain may be replaying sensory experiences to help understand common metaphors, new research suggests.
Linguists and psychologists have debated how much the parts of the brain that mediate direct sensory experience are involved in understanding metaphors. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, in their landmark work ‘Metaphors we live by’, pointed out that our daily language is full of metaphors, some of which are so familiar (like “rough day”) that they may not seem especially novel or striking. They argued that metaphor comprehension is grounded in our sensory and motor experiences.
New brain imaging research reveals that a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is also activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard.