Friday, October 3, 2014

Taste and Synaesthesia

We left off last time talking about Synaesthesia - the condition where a person's sensory responses are in a way, cross wired. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about it and started to think about all the possibilities that this condition could result in, for a person.

Of course we could talk about a lot of things in relationship to Synaesthesia, but since this is a health and wellness blog we will focus on how the condition impacts taste. According to Dr. Jeremy Dean (2014) there are 6 rare formats of Synaesthesia. Lexical-gustatory synesthesia is the most rare of the of formats, present in only 0.2% of the population (Dean, 2014). This form causes words to have taste. In research studies, for example, the word prison resulted in the taste of "cold, hard, bacon" (Dean, 2014). Other people who experience Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia have described it as a constant bombardment of tastes across the tongue. This can cause the individual to lack hunger and for their body to respond as if they are constantly eating (Carlsen, 2013).

For those not familiar with the gastrointestinal response to food, let me assure you that it is quite complex and yet very precise. When the GI tract gets signals of food about to be consumed or of food in the mouth, the body's response is to start to digest and absorb food. One particular response to preparation for food digestion is the secretion of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach. Just imagine how much acid a Lexical-gustatory synaesthesitic could potentially produce if they are constantly sending signals of food consumption! Since over production of HCL acid is one of the causes of gastric ulcers, it is not hard to see the increased possibility of developing ulcers in this population!

But, it isn't all bad for Synaesthesitics. Many people with this condition report working in the food industry and that this extra sensations give them an advantage. One gentleman in particular works as a Wine Sommelier and is able to smell in colors and shapes, giving him an advantage when assessing wines. Another is a baker who tastes emotions (!), music and color. Her baking trademark is creating goods that "taste" like emotion (Carlsen, 2013)!

I would love to try a baked good that represents how I feel about this condition and that is - amazement!

Emily Boldrin PhD, RD

Dean, Jeremy. (2014, May 1). 6 Intriguing Types of Synesthesia: Tasting Words, Seeing Sounds, Hearing Colours And More. Accessed October 1, 2014.

Carlsen, Audrey. (2013, March 18). Some People Really Can Taste the Rainbow. Accessed October 1, 2014.


Post a Comment

About Me

Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
View my complete profile