Talk:Synesthesia

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Conflicting projects/conflicting standards (or, what is synesthesia, anyway?)[edit]

I think the fundamental problem here is that synesthesia straddles the line between the medical world, which falls underWP:Medicine and a normal perceptual variant, which falls under WP:Psychology, with correspondingly different standards/expectations. For example, WP:Medicine assumes mostly a disease model, while WP:Psychology assumes a mostly behavioral/cognitive model. To date, this article has largely been written from the context of synesthesia being a normal perceptual variant, with a neural/genetic basis. However, we also use the term "neurological condition" which has brought in the wikiprojects on neurology and medicine.

Indeed, this conflict is present even in the published literature on synesthesia. In 2001, we referred to synesthesia as a "bizarre phenomenon" [1], and in 2005 as a "condition" [2]. In 2006, Ward and Mattingley argued that synesthesia might be better thought of as a "trait", and one editor considered it a "benign cognitive variant" [3]. In a series of articles in 2012 in the British Journal of Psychololgy, Julia Simner [4], Roi Cohen Kadosh [5] and David Eagleman [6] explicitly discuss the definition of synesthesia (these articles likely need to be added to the article under definition) and note these definitional difficulties.

WP:medicine has a very clear manual of style (WP:MEDMOS) and a very clear set of rigorous standards for sourcing, including the exclusive use of secondary sources(WP:MEDRS). A couple of editors from the medicine project have seen this article, as a medicine article, and note that it does not meet the medicine MEDMOS WP:MEDMOS#Diseases_or_disorders_or_syndromes for the most appropriate section) and MEDRS (WP:Identifying_reliable_sources_(medicine)). So, following these standards, they want to change the order of topics, the heading titles and the referencing standards to conform to MEDMOS and MEDRS.

However, as the article currently notes (see citations in the article), synesthesia is not primarily a disorder or medical condition.

  1. It is not included in the ICD or DSM classifications
  2. It does not interfere with daily functioning
  3. There is no cure, and indeed, synesthetes report that they would not want their synesthesia eliminated.
  4. Synesthesia even confers certain advantages, for example in the domain of memory.
  5. Synesthetes are not seen by clinicians, except as they may present with other medical issues, or in situations of misdiagnosis of synesthetic experiences as signs/symptoms of something else like schizophrenia.
  6. Synesthesia is primarily a perceptual/cognitive phenomenon, and is studied by researchers in psychology, neuroscience and genetics. It is also used by synesthetes in artistic expressions.

As such, MEDMOS is inappropriate in various ways.

  1. The signs/symptoms heading suggests that synesthesia is a sign or a symptom of an underlying pathology.
  2. There is no treatment, so that section of MEDMOS does not and cannot apply.
  3. As a field that is primarily an active domain of research, by experimentalists, rather than clinicians, research is moving quickly and anhand adherence to MEDRS means that we're leaving out important new work. Additionally, one of the main rationales for MEDRS is that wikipedia is "nonetheless an important and widely used source of health information." On the other hand, if synesthesia is not a "health" condition, but rather a perceptual/cognitive variant, this higher standard of MEDRS is inappropriate (standard RS would obviously still apply).

So, the heart of the issue is, do we treat synesthesia as primarily a perceptual/cognitive phenomenon with neural/genetic basis, or is it primarily a medical phenomenon, which would mean that it should be held to the standard medicine project (including MEDMOS/MEDRS) standards? I obviously believe it is more of a perceptual/cognitive phenomenon with a neural/genetic basis... but, on that logic, if these types of phenomena, like synesthesia, are as medical, then we need to treat intelligence, handedness, etc. as also being part of WP:Medicine. This seems to me to be creeping medicalization taken too far. It seems to me that, before we get to these discussions of MEDMOS and MEDRS, this fundamental issue needs to be resolved. Edhubbard (talk) 05:20, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

WP:RS also states that we should be using secondary sources (it is not just in WP:MEDRS). As mentioned above there are at least 15 from the last 5 years listed on pubmed.Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (if I write on your page reply on mine) 07:34, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

In reply:

  1. The signs/symptoms heading suggests that synesthesia is a sign or a symptom of an underlying pathology.
    It does not. This is simply the signs and symptoms of a condition. It does not need to be a pathology.
  2. There is no treatment, so that section of MEDMOS does not and cannot apply.
    Many conditions have no treatments. Not all sections are required.
  3. As a field that is primarily an active domain of research, by experimentalists, rather than clinicians, research is moving quickly and anhand adherence to MEDRS means that we're leaving out important new work. Additionally, one of the main rationales for MEDRS is that wikipedia is "nonetheless an important and widely used source of health information." On the other hand, if synesthesia is not a "health" condition, but rather a perceptual/cognitive variant, this higher standard of MEDRS is inappropriate (standard RS would obviously still apply).
    We have a section on ongoing research. Should still be based on secondary sources per WP:MEDRS however. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (if I write on your page reply on mine) 07:44, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

MEDRS applies to health and medicine-- the argument that this article isn't about health is meritless (starting with the statement in the article that it is linked to autism, for example). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:28, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

Would advise having a section called treatment, even if it is just to say there is no treatment. Lesion (talk) 19:52, 7 January 2014 (UTC)
And that many consider that treatment is not desirable even if it existed.Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (if I write on your page reply on mine) 22:20, 7 January 2014 (UTC)
Do we have any sources to back any of these statements? I do not have full journal access, but a google scholar search on "synesthesia treatment" returns many hits. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:14, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
That was easy; a PubMed search shows that this notion of "no treatment, no treatment wanted" is inaccurate. For example, PMID 23115347 "Grapheme-color synesthesia appears to be associated with PTSD among veterans who had been deployed. This finding may have implications for PTSD diagnostic screening and treatment." That's just the first hit. It's not a review, but clearly there are treatment implications. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:28, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
There is also a connection between intelligence and certain pathologies, but intelligence itself is not a disease, that needs treatment. Similar, if there are connections between synesthesia and certain pathologies, this does not mean that synesthesia itself would need treatment. In veterans, traumatized from war, a "treatment" of grapheme-colour synesthesia is probably not a appropriate choice. Rosanick (talk) 02:04, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
Hum good point. Some people who are deaf do not want it treated either as it is a huge part of their identity. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (if I write on your page reply on mine) 13:10, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Is there even any consensus as to whether synesthesia is a sensory impairment, for which special measures might be appropriate (even if treatnent is neither possible nor appropriate), or a sensory enhancement that might be of benefit or which should be actively enjoyed? Martinevans123 (talk) 14:00, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Synesthetes think of it as a cognitive variant (or perceptual variant) that is neutral or an enhancement.Rosanick (talk) 22:57, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
But Wikipedia text depends on reliable secondary sources, eg:
  • PMID 22229768 "I then investigate the possible benefits of moving from a behavioural definition to a neurobiological one and explore the ways in which this might force a rethink about the potential outermost boundaries of this fascinating condition."
" ... 61 different variants of the condition already reported to date." Martinevans123 (talk) 00:09, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
  • PMID 22229770 "She specifically takes issue with the following assumptions: (1) synaesthesia is strictly a sensory-perceptual phenomenon." SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:31, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
" ... a neurological hyper-association.. " Martinevans123 (talk) 00:09, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
There is tons of information in these reviews that needs to be worked in. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:20, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, they think it could be, to some extend, a cognitive phenomenonen instead of a strictly sensory-perceptual phenomenon.Rosanick (talk) 00:27, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Several of the points above by Edhubbard are irrelevant to whether we can use the MEDMOS layout. For example:

  1. It does not interfere with daily functioning
    Interference, distress, or impact is not necessary for Tourette syndrome (TS) either.
  2. There is no cure, and indeed, synesthetes report that they would not want their synesthesia eliminated.
    Again, that entire sentence is also true for TS.
  3. Synesthesia even confers certain advantages, for example in the domain of memory.
    Ditto again for TS.

These are not valid arguments relative to article organization. As to:

  • ... adherence to MEDRS means that we're leaving out important new work.

It seems to be more of a case of the multitude of reviews that are available have not been used, and one set of researchers brought forward their own primary source views in this article. Adherence to Wikipedia polices, (whether RS or MEDRS) will help assure balance. See also WP:RECENTISM, WP:NOT (news), and WP:NOR-- Wikipedia is an encyclopedia based on information published by other secondary sources-- it is not our job to make news. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:22, 8 January 2014 (UT

I'm not even sure where the right place to add this to the discussion is, anymore, but here's a few sources and quotes about synesthesia and whether it interferes with functioning, whether there's a cure (or one desired, etc).
"Lastly, Baron-Cohen has wondered if the synesthesia gene might be maladaptive. Among nearly 200 contacts I have not encountered more than a handful of synesthetes for whom the condition is umpleasant or disabling, and then only once in a while. Even when my proband case with taste-touch synesthesia (MW) claimed to be sometimes "overwhelmed" by the shapes, textures and movements that he felt, it was, upon closer inquiry, no more than a matter of distractability. Much like the gourmand who doesn't want to be disturbed while savoring his foie gras, MW sometimes wished to ignore ongoing events so that he could attend to a particularly pleasurable synesthesia...." (Cytowic, 2002 p. 56-57)
"As mentioned above, synesthesia is not considered a problem in most cases. However, lack of knowledge about synesthesia-within the medical and scientific community, and, more broadly, among the general public-is considered a major problem by the synesthete community. Synesthetes do not need a cure for synesthesia. Rather we need and want non-synesthete experts, family members, and concerned others to be informed about the occurrence and nature of our experiences so that it stops being thought of as an aberration, but rather a normal variant of perception. Together, we all need to work at finding ways to get rid of biases, misconceptions, pseudoscientific misinformation, dogmatism, and intolerance, is that far many more synesthetes can finally feel a sense of relief and acceptance." (Day p. 31 Some demographic and socio-cultural aspects of synesthesia in Robertson & Sagiv, 2005

http://books.google.com/books/about/Synesthesia_Perspectives_from_Cognitive.html?id=mLTcmQ6q8N4C)

"Although awareness of, and interest in, synesthesia continues to rise, there is much yet to be done. Despite well over a century of interest in synesthesia, we are still just now learning the basic tenets of not only how synesthesia works but also what synesthesia is. One key will be to increase public awareness of synesthesia, both to facilitate recruitment of research participants and also to allay any remaining stigma that may be associated with experiencing synesthesia. Having a term defined in this way tends to imply that there is an association with some sort of disorder or psychopathology. In fact, little evidence exists to suggest that synesthesia may be consistently linked with any disorder or illness (although see Banissy et al. 2012). However, the popular press writers often use unfortunate headlines, such as “ 500,000 Children Suffer From Cross-sensory Condition” (DailyMail.co.uk 2008), or The Illness That Confuses the Senses (Garner 2001). (p. 428 Lovelace in Simner and Hubbard, 2013; http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199603329.do)
Note that all of these are either single author books (Cytowic, 2002) or edited volumes (Day in Robertson & Sagiv, 2005 and Lovelace in Simner and Hubbard, 2013) published by reputable academic publishing houses (MIT Press and Oxford University Press). Additionally, I have intentionally sought out different authors in different years during the recent wave of synesthesia research to show that this is not an opinion espoused by just one person, at one limited point in time.
In general, (I've mentioned this above, but it's worth saying again, clearly) for a comprehensive secondary source for much of the article, you might look at the Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia, published by Oxford University Press on December 12 of 2013. Of course, as an editor of the book, me even mentioning it might be considered a WP:COI. But, objectively, it is a book and therefore a secondary source. It is a major Handbook (49 chapters, 1100+ pages) by a major academic publishing house, and therefore reputable, and as Martin Evans notes above, Julia Simner is a widely recognized and respected synesthesia researcher. Edhubbard (talk) 04:09, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
The 2013 books sounds like a very good source. Edhubbard, how about the following approach? If you (or anyone who has that book or the time) can cite any of the removed text below to that book, the text can be readded. How about grabbing all of the removed text section below, put it in sandbox, cite what can be cited to the book or recent reviews, and someone/anyone can re-add it. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:48, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
I'm swamped today by the imminent beginning of the semester and a new baby girl, but here's some pointers for people who might want to add stuff from the OUP book. If you want to help out, you can see a large portion of the book for free online through google books (http://books.google.com/books?lr=lang_en&id=ESH7AAAAQBAJ). Note, though that the book is the actual source, and google books is just a convenient way for many people to verify the source.
We certainly need a review on the genetics of synesthesia (Chapter 2; I think is the first *review* of the recent GWAS studies out there)
Personification (Ch. 12)
Individual differences (Chapters 13 and 22)
Perceptual reality of synesthesia (Chapter 15; see also Ch. 14 for limits to automaticity)
History (chapters 19-21; with different authors covering different eras)
Brain basis of synesthesia (Chapters 24-29; also http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21923787 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21923784)
Synesthesia in the arts (Chapters 32 and 34)
Synesthesia in literature (Ch. 33) , memory (Ch. 34), artificial synesthesia (Ch. 42).
"Sequence space synesthesia" (also time-space and number-form synesthesia, which might be considered subtypes of SSS, see our introductory comments xxi-xxii) (chapter 7).
I'll try to add more over the weekend, too. Edhubbard (talk) 15:54, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Multiple issues[edit]

Besides the COI editing, there are numerous book sources without page numbers, a good deal of uncited text, indiscriminate lists in the appendices, and considering the number of recent reviews available, a reliance on old reviews. Alarmingly, there is an extreme reliance on case reports.

There are also multiple statements with a string of citations after them-- usually an indication of either original research, controversy, or someone trying to push their own theories and research into an article. If text belongs here, there should be one good review supporting it.

Also, DOIs and PMIDs link to the article abstract; when an article is behind a paywall, providing the URL gives no additional information-- URL is for free full text.

Further, there is no doubt there is an extremely large amount of health and medical info here; the argument that MEDRS does not apply is absurd. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:47, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

+1 to those points. I am also concerned that the editor involved is still denying any COI, despite adding their own publications and name to the article, and has shown no indication of planning to changes this aspect of their editing in future. Unsure what is best to proceed ... COI noticeboard? Lesion (talk) 17:59, 7 January 2014 (UTC)
I would remove all of the primary-sourced original research so that the article can be rebuilt from reviews. And remind the editors posting above that a Research section can be used for research that is mentioned in secondary sources-- not as a parking place for more primary-sourced original research. This article is almost all primary research. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:22, 7 January 2014 (UTC)
Cudos Sandy for all this hard work. I came across this just now in the MEDMOS: "Wikipedia is not a directory of clinical trials or researchers." which I thought was very relevant to what has been going on this article. We should remove all mention of the names of researchers unless they are notable. In my opinion this is confined to those who first described the condition, and perhaps a few other truly landmark developments since. Lesion (talk) 17:13, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
I consider the impoliteness toward the editors Day, Cytowic, Hubbard and Cretien as unnecessary. The four mentioned editors are researchers that act in good faith. All that impolite discussion about COI editing while (first) mostly ignoring our big concerns about using words like „symptoms“ and „diagnosis" was unnecessary in my opinion. These researchers are normal people, it's possible to just ask them to add some more content from other research groups. Rosanick (talk) 01:10, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Previously it was claimed that I had made personal attacks. I did not at any point. Now you say there is impoliteness, which I also dispute. The issues raised here are purely based on breach of guidelines and policies. Any offense perceived is not intended, and I think I speak for all here on this point. It is difficult to convey tonality in text, and it is easy to get defensive when you feel your hard work is being criticized. Primarily we all need to remember we are here to write an encyclopedia.
Regarding your wording above that these researchers are normal people, can we not take the next step of this logic and conclude that normal people are not notable to be named in person in an encyclopedia article? Lesion (talk) 01:56, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I mentioned "normal" in context of polite communication, I did not mention "normal" in context of achievements or abilities.Rosanick (talk) 02:17, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Rosanick, you can thread your posts correctly by adding one more colon to the number of colons on the post before yours. Correcting the COI editing here is not a matter of "just ask[ing] them to add some more content from other research groups". Our sourcing guidelines call for secondary, not primary sources: it's a matter of using the best secondary sources, while refraining from posting any primary research, whether their own or someone else's. And yes, it is unfortunate that offense may be taken when policy and guideline must be applied-- it is often the case that people writing medical content on Wikipedia don't understand that Wikipedia relies on secondary sources. Here, it seems that Edbhubbard does recognize that, but has expressed some disagreement with the fundamental policies and guidelines of the website.

Still unsure what to do about diagnosis, since our text says that Cytowic's book refers to diagnosis. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 03:15, 9 January 2014 (UTC)

as far as I know, citing primary literature is not defined as a conflict of interest. Also, Hubbard actively encouraged other research groups from different countries to edit this article. This is clearly not compatible with the conception of a conflict of interest. Also, it is possible to simply ask to change things on the article. Therefore, the COI flags are not necessary. I suggest to remove them as soon as possible. These flags also discourage new editors from working on this article. Rosanick (talk) 09:46, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
The problem with citing primary research (besides the general problems with doing that over reviews) is that one might (inadvertently or otherwise) favor their own research. At any rate, moot now, since we have multiple new reviews from which the article can and should be rebuilt. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:45, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

(undent): I don't know that it's a MEDMOS approved term, but I tend to use the term "identifying" rather than "diagnosing". Perhaps "Identification" rather than "Diagnosis"? Edhubbard (talk) 04:14, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

We should follow whatever term the majority of recent, reliable secondary and tertiary sources (WP:MEDRS) are using. If this is some other term from diagnosis, then I support using a different term. Lesion (talk) 04:23, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Thank you Edhubbard for supplying the information from the book above; with a recognized expert in the field most decidedly referring on more than one occasion to "diagnostic criteria", I am uncomfortable changing the section heading. But, I'm also uncomfortable using the term "diagnosis" for non-recognized conditions (eg PANDAS). Dilemma. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:43, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Caption for first image[edit]

The caption for the first image in this article is as follows:

"How someone with synesthesia might perceive (not "see") certain letters and numbers. Synesthetes see characters just as others do (in whichever color actually displayed), yet simultaneously perceive colors as associated to each one."

To me, there are some problems with this wording which create confusion and ambiguity.

1) The verb perceive includes all the ways we perceive the world through the five senses, including seeing. Thus, the phrase "not 'see'" is not necessary and is confusing.
2) In the first phrase, I do not see the necessity for the word "certain". "How someone with synesthesia might perceive letters and numbers" ought to be sufficient.
3) In "Synesthetes see characters....", I think the word "characters" creates confusion. Characters generally refer to letters, not numbers. Numbers are figures. I think it would be clearer to say, "Synesthetes see letters and numbers just as others do...."
4) The phrase "yet simultaneously perceive colors as associated to each one" is not clear. It is the last part of this that is ambiguous. The phrase "each one" could mean "each character (or each letter and number)" or "each color".

I suggest the following wording:

"How someone with synesthesia might perceive letters and numbers. Synesthetes see letters and numbers just as others do (in whatever color actually displayed) yet simultaneously perceive certain other colors associated with each letter or number."

I realize that "letters and numbers" or the singular "letter or number" appears three times. Another alternative might be to use only the first phrase as the caption and leave the rest for the body of the article.

If there is something I am not aware of that caused me to misunderstand what was intended, I would be glad to learn of it. – CorinneSD (talk) 20:49, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Sound = Shape/Texture or Color synesthesia (fades with age?)[edit]

Hi. I have read this article many times in the past hoping to find a name for the synesthesia experiences I had as a child. I seem to have outgrown these, and actually miss it - but I still remember many examples quite well.

Specifically, sounds associated with both colors and shapes in some circumstances, such as "Orange and Round," whereas with others, it was a color and a texture, such as "brown and wooden" or even a color and a sense of an encompassing volume, such as "brown and 20 gallons."

I would appreciate any input (and/or questions) regarding this. Please contact me: plvinoski@hardynet.com. Thanks

198.41.60.53 (talk) 07:21, 19 April 2014 (UTC)Paul Vinoski

Evolution and Synesthesia and Ideasthesia[edit]

Synesthesia and Ideasthesia are Tested as neurological phenomena but are part of the Natural evolution of instinct, sensation, emotion, and mentation; our means for meaning...

The effort to understand at this level of life's inducements, interactions and transformations can simplify or complicate observations of evolution...Arnlodg (talk) 00:36, 31 May 2014 (UTC)[1]

  1. ^ inclusivness