Sunday, June 24, 2012
Julian Asher of Imperial College London and colleagues from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford have done studies to investigate genetic components of synaesthesia, a condition that seems to run in families. Researchers took genetic samples from 196 individuals of 43 families. They found 121 individuals who exhibited the synaesthetic trait of seeing a color in response to a sound. "When I hear a violin, I see something like a rich red wine," says Asher, who is a synaesthete himself. "A cello is more like honey." The team performed a genetic analysis that tracked common "markers,” specific sets of base pairs that are repeated throughout the genome and which vary from person to person. They identified a region on chromosome 2, which has been associated with autism, as exhibiting the strongest link. Of interest, the autistic savant, Daniel Tammet, has a combination of the two conditions (autism and synaesthesia), as do some other autistic savants.