Research conducted by Mathew Gendle, assistant professor of psychology, has been accepted for presentation at the first International Brain Conference, to be held Jan. 19-21 in Orlando, Fla.
Titled “Word-gustatory Synesthesia: Insight into a Rare Sensory Experience,” Gendle’s presentation will discuss a case study of an individual with a rare form of synesthesia, a developmental condition in which specific sensory experiences are mixed. The study of synesthesia provides important insights regarding the nature of consciousness, reality, and perceptual development. In the described case of word-gustatory synesthesia, the individual experiences detailed, specific, and replicable tastes in response to hearing or reading certain words (for example, the word “attendant” is experienced as the taste of “chicken nugget with sweet and sour sauce”).
In his research, Gendle demonstrates that this individual’s experiences are genuine and are not the sole result of: 1) exceptional non-synesthetic learning of taste-word associations over time; 2) prior life experiences with particular words or the concepts these words represent, or; 3) a response to phonemes rather than whole words. These findings suggest that word-gustatory synesthesia is the complex product of multiple factors including components of linguistic structure and prior life experience with written and spoken language.