A Woman With Number/Color Synesthesia Explains Her Brain


Alex Dainis has grapheme to color synesthesia, meaning that within her brain, numbers have strong associations with colors -- "each number has its own color, or personality," she explains. We've covered synesthesia previously, but this is the first time I've seen a synesthete sit down and describe concretely, in a non-artsy-fartsy way, what's going on in her brain.

It's really interesting how Dainis tries to explain the logic behind the number-coloring. This logic isn't entirely consistent, it just kind of is, because it happens at some level deeper than cognition -- but now she is applying cognitive logic to it. Her brain's system has a lot to do with multiples, though there are obviously logical problems with certain digits (like 6) that are early multiples of prime numbers like 2 and 3. In her case, 6 is lumped in with the 3,6,9 grouping, while 2,4,8 have their own set. Don't get me started on the prime numbers 5 and 7 (5 is part of a grouping with 0 -- which, I agree, makes sense in Base 10). Anyway, the whole thing is fascinating, largely because it doesn't try to get us to feel the swirly whoop-de-doo arty part of synesthesia -- it's just a person breaking it down for us, performing a sense-making exercise on her own brain. Have a look:

Representative quote: "The 5 often overpowers whatever other colors are in the digits."

Bonus points: she can also "see" music to some extent. This is the same woman who just made internet waves with a lip-sync six years in the making. Dainis is apparently one of us, my geek friends. So Alex -- do you read Mental Floss?