Synaesthesia and Autism Aren’t So Different… – #365papers – 2017 – 68

#365papers for March 9, 2017

Ward, Hoadley, Hughes, Smith, Allison and Baron-Cohen, and Simner, 2017, Atypical sensory sensitivity as a shared feature between synaesthesia and autism: Nature Scientific Reports.

What’s it about?

Autism is often accompanied with sensory hyper- or hyposensitivity. Synaesthesia (the perception of one type of sensory input from a different type of stimulus, like colors for text) is also a sensory sensitivity. Studies have shown that many autistic people are also synaesthetic, but the two sensory experiences so not always co-occur.

This paper assesses the degree of similarity between autistic individuals and non-autistic synasthetes compared to neurotypical, non-synastheic controls.

It turns out that synaesthetes and autistic individuals are most similar in “attention to detail” which is in part related to why many autistic individuals also possess savant characteristics like amazing memories.

Why does it matter?

Autism is a complex neurological behavioral disorder. Where there is a similarity between otherwise neurotypical individuals, there is an opportunity to better understand the disorder and treat it.

Why did I read this?

My son is autistic. I am synasethetic. I hear sounds with visual stimuli. I want to understand my child better.

I can relate to the “attention to detail” aspect of the paper as I use the way I perceive the sounds of things, particularly dynamic (moving) things, helps me assure that things are done correctly. In particular, as I learn techniques in martial arts, I know I’m doing things more correctly when it ‘sounds’ the same when I perform a techniques as it did when I watched an expert (instructor or advanced student) perform the same technique.


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