HEALTHY LIVING
07/30/2013 06:03 pm ET Updated Jul 31, 2013

Synesthesia After Stroke: Man Shares What It's Like To Taste Colors

A stroke has left a Toronto man with an unusual side effect: the ability to "taste" color.

Detailed in a study in the journal Neurology, researchers from St. Michael's Hospital in Canada explained the case of a man who developed synesthesia around nine months after experiencing a stroke. Synesthesia is a condition where people can "see" or "hear" things that traditionally cannot be seen or heard, such as tastes or smells.

Researchers said that this is only the second known case of a person developing synesthesia after brain injury.

The man, who declined to have his name released, explained in a video produced by St. Michaels that "raspberries, to me, taste like the color blue. And it's that specific color blue, and if I see that specific color blue, I can taste raspberries."

Dr. Tom Schweizer, who is the director of the Neuroscience Research Program at the hospital's Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, analyzed the man's brain using functional MRI in order to see how it differed from those who don't have synesthesia by comparing brain activity to that of six men who were of similar age and education level.

All of the men underwent the brain scans while doing different activities, including listening to the James Bond theme song, as well as a euphonium solo. Researchers found that when the man with synesthesia listened to the James Bond theme song, there was activation in the thalamus, hippocampus and auditory cortex regions of the brain. Researchers noted that the auditory cortex plays a role in sound, the hippocampus plays a role in memory and spatial navigation, and the thalamus serves as a switchboard.

"The areas of the brain that lit up when he heard the James Bond Theme are completely different from the areas we would expect to see light up when people listen to music," Schweizer explained the statement. "Huge areas on both sides of the brain were activated that were not activated when he listened to other music or other auditory stimuli and were not activated in the control group."

Talk Nerdy To Me's Cara Santa Maria previously explained that synesthesia affects up to 4 percent of people, and is usually considered an inherited trait.

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