Science project

Synesthesia: The World's Most Wanted Brain Disorder

Difficulty Level




Safety Issues

Parental guidance required when recruiting and interviewing participants for this survey.

Project Time Frame

4-6 weeks


This project deals with the brain disorder known as synesthesia.  Although synesthesia appears in many forms, here we deal with one specific type:  grapheme-color synesthesia.

Project Goals
  • To learn more than is currently known about this condition.   
  • To explore its practical applications in Art, Music, Fashion, and other disciplines.

Materials and Equipment

  • An appropriate number of volunteers
  • Computer with internet access.
  • Digital camera
  • Typical office/craft supplies (such as paper, pens & poster-board)


Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which the senses overlap.  For instance, a person with grapheme-color synesthesia perceives numbers or letters of the alphabet as being tinged with color. This person may claim that the letter A is red.

Although synesthesia is technically considered a disorder, people who have it don’t seem to mind.  In fact, many consider it a very special gift.  Color-synesthetes are often involved in music and visual arts.

Research Questions
  • Why do synesthetes perceive colors where the rest of us don’t?
  • How many people have grapheme-color synesthesia?
  • Is it more common in men than in women?
  • To what extent do synesthetes agree on the color for each symbol?
  • What are some useful applications for this mental ability?
  • Is it possible that letters, numbers or sounds really do have color?
  • What additional evidence supports your theory?
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research
  • A working basic knowledge of statistics would be helpful in understanding and interpreting the results of this project.
  • Also helpful is a basic overview of synesthesia in its various forms.

Experimental Procedure

  1. Read a basic overview, describing synesthesia in all its forms (see bibliography).
  2. Contact synesthetes via The Synesthesia List (see link below)
  3. Recruit an appropriate number of volunteers to take the survey
  4. Have each individual volunteer name the color of each alphabet letter, as well as the color of the digits 0-9.  Ask if any other symbols or concepts have color.  Take detailed notes.
  5. Ask if some letters/numbers are brighter than others.  If so, which ones?
  6. Ask additional questions regarding gender, ethnicity, occupation, medical conditions, or anything else that might provide additional insight.  Record all data.
  7. Analyze results
  8. Interpret findings in a detailed report.
  9. Show results visually using colorful graphs and charts.
  10. Display relevant photos taken throughout the course of the experiment.


Conceptual Statistics for Beginners (Newman, Isadore & Carol, 2005 reprint) American Synesthesia Association The Synesthesia List

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