© 2020 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Seeing Sounds, Hearing Colors: UMSL Professor Researches Rare Condition

012413_Synesthesia_via_Flickr_jtbrennan.jpg
(via Flickr/jtbrennan)
Some synesthetes see letters and numbers as colors

Synesthesia is a complex and rare condition in which input from one sense is perceived through another sense.

The abilities of people to see what they hear or hear what they see are just two examples.

A significant amount of research into the condition is being conducted at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

"St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh spoke with UMSL philosophy professor Brit Brogaard and with UMSL philosophy graduate student Kristian Marlow, who participated in the research.

Also joining the program were two synesthetes:

  • Daniel Kish is a development psychologist who has been blind for nearly all his life.  He is an expert in human echolocation and through his nonprofit organization teaches blind people to see through sound.
  • Derek Amato woke up after a concussion and discovered he could play the piano without any training or practice.

Editorial note: A previous version of this story identified Brit Brogaard as the director of the St. Louis Synesthesia Lab at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Kristian Marlow as the lab’s associate director. Those titles are incorrect, but it is Brit Brogaard’s area of expertise.  The original audio has not been altered. (Feb. 4, 2013, and Sept. 10, 2013)

Stay Connected
Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.