Monday, 12 April 2010

UK Synaesthesia Association Conference 2010

The week before Easter I attended the UK Synaesthesia Association's 2010 conference at the University of Sussex to give a paper about An Eyeful of Sound.

I've attended before and it's potentially quite an intimidating environment - a load of scientists with brains the size of planets talking about synaesthesia, coupled with lots of people who have synaesthesia - and very definite views on the ways it should be communicated. However it's an amazing opportunity to listen to cutting edge research into synaesthesia and how it works, and also to hear from synaesthetic people about their experiences of it.

I came away feeling no less of a fraud than when I went in (after all I'm not synaesthetic and I'm not a neuro-scientist) but with some fascinating food for thought and having met some amazing people.

Ashok Jansari from East London University talked about MEG scanning of synaesthetic and non-synaesthetic brains - with unusual and expected outcomes for non-synaesthetes. Jasmin Sinha talked about hidden forms of synaesthesia and her own experience of being synaesthetic (a lovely injection of plain speaking), and David Eagleman gave a paper on his large scale analysis of results from his synaesthesia battery; a website where you can test to see if you're synaesthetic.

A highlight for me was Regina Pautzke giving a live theremin performance to Photoshop animation of her synaesthetic response, I've never seen one played before and it was an amazingly atmospheric experience!

At lunchtime there was a screening in full of An Eyeful of Sound (there wasn't time during the 20 minute presentation), and it seemed to go down well. There was lots of positive feedback afterward from both scientists and synaesthetes. I gave away all my copies of the film and had lots of requests for more - it was especially nice to get them from lecturers who wanted to use the work to illustrate synaesthesia to their students.

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