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See BBC.co.uk for the complete article:
Can you see time?
By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News
Imagine if you could see time laid out in front of you, or surrounding your body. And you could physically point to specific dates in space. Important dates might stand out - birthdays, anniversaries. And you could scan a visible timeline - to check if you were available - whenever you made plans. No actual diary necessary. According to Julia Simner, a psychologist from the University of Edinburgh, there is a reasonable chance you can. And that you may use the experience, unconsciously, every day.
Dr Simner studies synaesthesia - a condition caused by an unusually high number of connections between two areas of the brain's sensory cortex, making two senses inseparable. Synaesthetes, as they are known, have experiences that might seem extremely strange to any non-synaesthete. The extra connections might be between the brain area that processes colours and the area that processes language.
One of the most common variants is called grapheme-colour synaesthesia," says Dr Simner. "People with this variant know the colour of letters of the alphabet. So they know that the letter 'A' may be red. But not just any red, it's a certain shade of crimson. And B is turquoise-blue." These colours are different from person to person, but for one synaesthete they are very consistent. "If you are a synaesthete with a red A, your A has always been red and will always be red. And it's so intrinsic, that many synaesthetes never question whether this is unusual."
But synaesthetic experiences are not only triggered by a sensory experience - hearing a sound or reading a word that starts with at coloured letter - they can also triggered simply by thinking about things.
In the case of time-space synaesthesia, a very visual experience can be triggered by thinking about time.
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