You See Auras, Researchers
See Brain Signals
People who see colorful "auras" in response
to people or words may simply have a brain condition, not psychic
powers, according to a new research report.
In the report, a UK researcher
suggests that a woman who sees colors around the people she knows
or upon hearing the sound of their names may have synesthesia,
a condition in which people's senses get crossed, causing them,
for example, to see words as colors or to experience a smell in
response to a sound.
Dr. Jamie Ward of University College
London in the UK suggests that the patient, known as GW, may have
a form of synesthesia tied to emotion, in which she sees colors
in response to a feeling she gets about a person or word.
"These colors do not reflect hidden
energies being given off by other people, rather they are created
entirely in the brain of the beholder," Ward said in a statement.
Scientists believe synesthesia,
which appears to run in families, may occur as a result of cross-wiring
between brain centers.
In Ward's report, published in
the journal Cognitive Neuropsychology, GW underwent a series of
tests to determine what was triggering her perception of colors.
In one experiment, she reported
the colors she saw in response to seeing people she knows or hearing
their names. Different names elicited different colors, which
GW could not suppress. For instance, "James" elicited pink, while
"Hannah" elicited blue.
GW did not see colors attached
to common names, such as Anne or Edward, if she did not know anyone
with that name.
In a subsequent experiment, GW
rated her emotional response to 108 words. She was significantly
more likely to see colors in response to emotional words, either
positive or negative.
In general, words that elicited
positive feelings appeared pink, orange, yellow and green, while
negative words elicited brown, gray and black shades.
Interestingly, GW said she did
not see colors associated with some words that have obvious color
associations, such as color names or food names.
All of this evidence points to
the fact that GW's synesthesia is likely brought on by emotions,
according to Ward.
"GW does not believe she has mystical
powers and has no interest in the occult, but it is not hard to
imagine how, in a different age or culture, such an interpretation
could arise," Ward said.
"Although many people claiming
to have such powers could be charlatans, it is also conceivable
that others are born with a gift of synesthesia," he noted.
SOURCE: Cognitive Neuropsychology,
Reference Source 89
October 22, 2004