NABOKV-L post 0010452, Wed, 27 Oct 2004 17:28:27 -0700

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Fwd: Nabokov, the author,
wrote: "I have this rather freakish gift ...
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----- Forwarded message from spklein52@hotmail.com -----
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 2004 17:55:12 -0400
From: "Sandy P. Klein" <spklein52@hotmail.com>
Reply-To: SPKlein52@HotMail.com
Subject: Nabokov, the author, wrote: "I have this rather freakish gift ...
To: spklein52@hotmail.com

[1] Wednesday 27 October 2004 BLUE WAVES

[2]

Why Miles Davis saw the blues
Auras exist, but inside our brains because of a mix-up between the
different senses, says ROGER HIGHFIELD.
\'Derek tastes of ear wax, Russell Square of celery\'[3]
Argument dates back to blind man and trumpet[4]


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2004/10/27/ecraura27.xml&sSheet=/connected/2004/10/27/ixconnrite.html[5]
Why Miles Davis saw the blues
Telegraph.co.uk - London,England,UK
... VLADIMIR NABOKOV, the author, wrote: "I have this rather freakish
gift of seeing letters in colours." Other synaesthetes include the
jazz legend Miles Davis ... [6]

Why Miles Davis saw the blues
(Filed: 27/10/2004)

AURAS EXIST, BUT INSIDE OUR BRAINS BECAUSE OF A MIX-UP BETWEEN THE
DIFFERENT SENSES, SAYS ROGER HIGHFIELD

The ability to see an aura shimmering around a person is one of the
more common, and colourful, "psychic powers" that some people claim
to possess. Now scientists have become convinced that these auras are
real – at least in the mind of the beholder – and are very revealing.

Kind of blue: jazz legend Miles Davis, the poets Baudelaire and
Rimbaud and the composer Lizst were all synaesthetes

They have nothing to do with "energy fields", hotlines to the spirit
world or glimpses of other dimensions, but they do reveal something
profound about the design of the brain. Intriguingly, there is
evidence that this apparently magical ability may be much more common
than thought, and may provide insights into how our ancestors first
evolved language.

Language and mysterious auras may be linked by a bizarre mixing of
the senses called synaesthesia. Some people with this condition can
experience colours in response to people they know or in reaction to
"love", "hate" and other words that evoke emotions. This is known as
emotion-colour synaesthesia.

Now a new study, reported in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychology
by Dr Jamie Ward's team from University College London, shows how
this rare form of synaesthesia can also make some people see
colourful halos and auras around their loved ones. "A popular notion
is that some people have a magical ability to detect the hidden
emotions of others by seeing a colourful `aura' or energy field that
they give off," says Dr Ward. "The ability of some people to see the
coloured auras of others has held an important place in folklore and
mysticism throughout the ages."

Although many people claiming to have such powers could well be
charlatans, "our study suggests a different interpretation. These
colours do not reflect hidden energies being given off by other
people, rather they are created entirely in the brain of the
beholder."

In his study, Dr Ward described the case of GW, a young woman who
could see colours such as purple and blue in response to people she
knew or to the sound of their names. Words triggered a colour which
spread across her field of vision, while people themselves appeared
to have coloured "auras" projected around them. For example, "James"
triggered pink, "Thomas" black and "Hannah" blue. In this way, the
colour of a person's aura revealed the way GW felt about that person.
Similarly, when GW felt she was in a happy party, the venue took on a
red tint.

When GW took a test in which she rated 100 words on a scale of one
to seven for their emotional impact, the UCL team found that highly
emotive words such as fear or hate also triggered colours. Words
associated with positive and happy emotions tended to elicit pink,
orange, yellow and green. But words associated with negative and
gloomy emotions triggered brown, grey and black.

"GW does not believe she has mystical powers and has no interest in
the occult, but it is not hard to imagine how, in a different age or
culture, such an interpretation could arise," says Dr Ward. "Rather
than assuming that people give off auras or energy fields that can
only be detected by rigged cameras or trained seers, we need only
assume that the phenomenon of synaesthesia is taking place."

Saints have often been depicted with an aura and this may tell us
something about the artists who painted them. Many creative people
have been thought to have the two-for-one sensory experience of
synaesthesia. Vladimir Nabokov, the author, wrote: "I have this
rather freakish gift of seeing letters in colours." Other
synaesthetes include the jazz legend Miles Davis, the poets
Baudelaire and Rimbaud and the composer Lizst.

Previous estimates suggested as few as one in every 25,000 people –
and more women than men – have synaesthesia. Recently, in BBC2's
Horizon programme, Dr Ward described how he has launched an effort to
find out how common the condition really is, after finding, when
conducting straw polls among his students, that as many as one in 100
claim to have it.

In one study, he has been asking passers-by to take part in an
experiment in which they are – without realising it – tested for
synaesthesia. The test is designed to show that synaesthetes would
consistently link the same colours to the same letters and numbers
while normal people would use guesswork. The study is still under
way, but if its preliminary findings are backed it suggests that
there could be as many as half a million people in Britain who see
coloured letters and numbers, many probably not realising that this
is unusual.

"If you start asking your friends and relatives, it's not beyond the
realms of possibility you'll soon find a synaesthete and they may not
know it," says Dr Ward.

A follow-up study is even more startling: we may all be affected to
some extent. The insight came when Dr Ward studied synaesthete
Dorothy Latham, 70; when she hears notes go from low to high, the
colours she sees go from purple to black and mid-brown to yellow and
white. "What this suggests is that there is some organising principle
which dictates how individual notes get associated with particular
colours," said Dr Ward.

He was surprised when he repeated the experiment with a control
group of non-synaesthetes, revealing a similar association of darker
colours and low pitched notes to lighter colours/high pitched notes.

"Beneath the surface we all have mechanisms that link together sound
and vision and the mechanisms seem to be pretty much the same in both
synaesthetes and other members of the population," says Dr Ward. "So
we're all in a way synaesthetes, even if we don't realise it."

Clues to the "purpose" of muddled senses came from another
synaesthete, Heather Birt, 28, a music teacher who sees coloured
numbers arranged in three- dimensional space around her. The
mechanism that links numbers to colours also seems to stimulate the
part of her brain that produces a sense of space. When he
investigated, Dr Ward found this ability to work with numbers by
arranging them in space was common.

"In fact we all seem to do this, even though most of us are
completely unaware of it," he says. "We tend to think about numbers
being arranged from left to right in space, but only synaesthetes
have the ability to sense it."

Perhaps synaesthesia enables us to deal with abstract concepts and
other sequences in a concrete way. Some scientists go further.
Because he has found that full-blown synaesthesia is eight times more
common among artists, poets and novelists than in the general
population, Prof Vilayanur Ramachandran of the University of
California, San Diego, believes it is linked with creativity. "The
basis of creativity is seeing unexpected links, sometimes even making
seemingly random links and picking the ones which make sense or which
are beautiful. This is the basis of all creativity, whether in
poetry, visual art or literature."

And he believes that our common ability to link sounds and objects
may have been the springboard to language. The connection between our
senses of hearing and vision was an important step towards the
creation of words, perhaps when our earliest ancestors used sounds
that evoked the object they wished to describe.

Links:
------
[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/index.jhtml
[2]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2004/10/27/ecraura27.xml&amp;sSheet=/connected/2004/10/27/ixconnrite.html
[3]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2004/10/27/ecrbox127.xml&amp;sSheet=/connected/2004/10/27/ixconnrite.html
[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/conn
ected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2004/10/27/ecrargu27.xml&amp;sSheet=/connected/2004/10/27/ixconnrite.html
[5]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2004/10/27/ecraura27.xml&amp;sSheet=/connected/2004/10/27/ixconnrite.html
[6]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/index.jhtml;sessionid=S1BQF4VAIEWEPQFIQMFSNAGAVCBQ0JVC

----- End forwarded message -----