Tag Archives: synesthesia

Taking the Synesthesia Battery

Before I get started, I want to thank ndsenseandsex for mentioning The Synesthesia Battery on Tumblr and inspiring this week’s Take a Test Tuesday post.

Even more importantly, I need to preface this by saying that I don’t have synesthesia. The background information for this test is based strictly on research and will probably be quite short. I know there are regular readers who are synesthetes. Perhaps they’ll provide us with some firsthand accounts of their experiences. Finally, if I’ve gotten anything here wrong, please tell me and I’ll edit as needed.

Okay, on with the test . . .

Synesthesia is a condition where one sense is automatically and involuntarily triggered by input to a different sensory channel. For example, watching a video of moving dots triggers an auditory sensory response or smelling a particular scent evokes a visual response, such a as a specific color.

There are a couple of key characteristics of synesthesia that differentiate it from simple sensory associations. Synesthesia “concurrents”–the atypical sensory responses that accompanies the typical sensory responses–are:

  • involuntary
  • consistent
  • automatic

This means that a certain type of sensory input always triggers the exact same concurrent response, whether you are consciously expecting it or not, and that’s been the case for as long as you’ve been a synesthete (usually since birth, except occasionally in the case of head injuries or drug-induced neurological changes).

There are many different types of synesthesia. Some people experience only one type of synesthesia and others experience multiple types. Some of the more common forms include:

  • numbers or letters are associated with colors
  • people (or the scents of individuals) are associated with colors
  • visual movement patterns are associated with sounds
  • sounds are associated with colors or other visuals
  • visual sights (other than food) are associated with tastes
  • pain is associated with colors

Synesthesia isn’t an autism trait, but anecdotally, there seems to be a high rate of synesthetes among people on the spectrum. Like autism, it also tends to run in families.

Taking the Synesthesia Battery

The test website has two components: a short pretest you can take to screen for synesthesia and a longer battery that tests for various forms of synesthesia. To take the test, start here. The 7-question screening pretest is optional. If you have no idea whether you might have synesthesia, it’s a quick way to get a better idea.

If you experience synesthesia and want to take the more comprehensive Synesthesia Battery, you’ll be asked to register by giving an email address. The site says that results will be anonymously added to a research database and  that emails are kept private and never shared.

If you don’t want to register and take the Battery but are curious about what it consists of, there is a demo page with some screen shots and demo versions of the various parts of the test.

After registering and consenting to be part of the study, you’re asked to provide some demographic information. On the same page, you’ll be presented with a list of various types of synesthesia, with short descriptions of each, and asked to indicate which ones you experience. Based on which types of synesthesia you report experiencing, you’ll be served up a series of short tests.

There are both interactive and question/answer tests. Each of the interactive tests lasts about 10 minutes. The interactive  tests present a number of trials in which you’re asked to identify the concurrent for an item that is presented. For example, what color does M evoke or what color is this musical note associated with. The same “input” is repeated multiple times, testing how consistent your concurrents are.

The length of your test will depend on the number of tests that you’re given. You can stop at any time and come back to finish later by using the account you created when registering.

The Results

I didn’t take any complete any tests because I don’t experience synesthesia and didn’t want to contribute useless data to the study. I’m looking forward to hearing about any results that you all want to share with us.

There are samples of a synesthete’s results page and a non-synesthete’s results page that you can take a look at to see how they compare.

The Bottom Line

There are quite a few synesthesia questionnaires available online, but the interactivity of this test adds a measure of objectivity that is hard to achieve with multiple choice questions alone. Obviously it’s impossible to test for certain kinds of synesthesia online, since our computers can’t produce scents or replicate all of the possible forms of sensory input that trigger certain kinds of synesthesia, but this test is similar to the ones used to test for synesthesia in clinical settings.


Monday Morning Musings (5-27)

DSM-5 Goes Live

The DSM-5 was released last week. It’s still impossible to find the full criteria online anywhere, but here’s a summary of the major changes, according to a short video on the APA website.

1. Merges Asperger’s syndrome, PDD-NOS, childhood disintegrative disorder and autism into a single diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

2. Diagnosis is now based on two criteria instead of three:

  • Social communication (collapsing the formerly separate social and communication domains)

  • Restricted, repetitive behaviors

An interesting shift is that while social communication impairments are seen as lifelong and pervasive, RRBs are not. An adult can now receive an ASD diagnosis based on current social communication impairments and a history of RRBs.

3. The addition of specifiers like age at onset, type of onset (skill loss or not), intellectual disability, verbal impairment, and co-morbid conditions present (i.e. ADHD, anxiety disorders, epilepsy). There will also be a 3-level severity scale assigned to each of the two diagnostic criteria.

If you’re interested in how the DSM-5 guidelines might be implemented in practice I found a set of guidelines developed for pediatricians at the University of Washington hospital. Keep in mind that those are preliminary (not necessarily reflecting the final release of DSM-5 and developed by one hospital.)

Weighted Blankets: Not Just for Kids

Last month my daughter surprised me with a weighted blanket for my birthday. Look how adorable it is:


It’s big enough to cover me from toes to mid-torso when I’m lying flat (or cover me entirely if I curl up on my side), which is plenty. I’ve been using it in the evenings while I’m watching TV, when I need a sensory break during the day or after a tiring outing.

It’s emotionally calming and it makes me feel more physically organized. An unexpected benefit is that my moods are less spiky since I’ve been using it daily.

From the “Change is Hard” File

My old apartment was on the 3rd floor and my new apartment is on the 2nd floor. The first few times I used the elevator here I automatically hit the 3 button, got out on the 3rd floor and was halfway to my apartment before I realized that the numbers were all wrong.

Now when I use the elevator (which isn’t often, because 2nd floor), I tell myself “2 not 3”. The funny thing is, apparently I’ve been saying it out loud. The things you don’t realize until another person is around to look at you funny. Oops.

Hearing Motion

In the comments on one of the surveys, Robin shared a cool video that can help you identify if you experience a certain kind of synesthesia in which visual motion generates sound. I didn’t hear anything when I watched it but some other folks did.


Last week the blog topped 100,000 views and 3000 comments. Yay!

Survey: Special Skills and Fun Stuff

Tuesday!!!!!! I’m so excited. I’ve missed our interactive Tuesdays.

This week’s survey questions are all about special skills and fun things that didn’t quite fit in the other categories. You can answer here in the comments or answer anonymously at Survey Monkey.  Question #10 has 4 parts because Survey Monkey only allows 10 questions on their free surveys and I didn’t want to break this into 2 surveys.

Answer as many as you like. Tell us about your awesomeness. Have fun!

Special Skills and Fun Stuff

  1. What is your favourite thing about being autistic?

  1. Do you have hyperfocus? Do you like it? How long do you focus for, on average?

  1. If you like numbers, what’s your favourite number game?

  1. What is your autistic superpower? (data processing, attention to detail, math, super-concentration, beautiful flapping, lucid dreaming, synasthesia etc)

  1. What cool thing about being autistic do you wish that neurotypical people could experience?

  1. Do you use echolaelia to learn foreign languages?

  1. Apparently, most people feel that their inner self has a particular age unrelated to their chronological age. How old are you inside? Are you older or younger than when you were a child?

  1. If you have a photographic memory, how do you cope with physical locations becoming crowded with all of the history?

  1. Do you have childish or otherwise ‘age inappropriate’ interests or did you at an earlier point in life, such as during your teenage years?

  1. And a multi-parter for number 10 because Survey Monkey only lets me make 10 questions. Do you:

[A] experience synesthesia?

[B] regard yourself as hyperlexic?

[C] think in words?

[D] understand the body language of animals?