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Specificity and longevity of memory advantages in synaesthesia

Applicant Meier Beat
Number 149692
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Allgemeine Psychologie und Neuropsychologie Institut für Psychologie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.02.2014 - 30.09.2018
Approved amount 213'346.00
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Keywords (2)

memory; synaesthesia

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Synästhesie bezeichnet eine relativ seltene Variation des Erlebens, bei der die Wahrnehmung eines Reizes ein zusätzliches Sinneserlebnis auslöst. Beispielsweise lösen bei der am besten untersuchten Form der Synästhesie, der Graphem-Farb-Synästhesie, Buchstaben und Zahlen ein zusätzliches Farberlebnis aus. Synästhesie hat auch Konsequenzen im Alltag, zum Beispiel eine Affinität für kreative Beschäftigungen, besseres Vorstellungsvermögen und Vorteile bei Gedächtnisaufgaben.
Lay summary

 

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

In diesem Projekt wird die Spezifität des Gedächtnisvorteils bei verschiedenen Formen von Synästhesie untersucht. So werden neben Personen mit Graphem-Farb-Synästhesie auch Personen untersucht mit Ton-Farbsynästhesie, bei denen Töne zusätzliche Farberlebnisse auslösen und Personen mit Sequenz-Raum Synästhesie, bei denen Sequenzen wie Wochentage oder Monate ein zusätzliches räumliches Erleben auslöst. Es werden jeweils drei verschiedene Gedächtnistests durchgeführt die für bestimmte Formen der Synästhesie einen direkten Bezug haben (z.B. Töne für Ton-Farbsynästhesie) und es wird untersucht, ob der Gedächtnisvorteil materialspezifisch oder von genereller Natur ist.

 

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Erkenntnisse über die Auswirkungen von zusätzlichen Erlebniskomponenten auf die Erinnerungsfähigkeit haben eine grundsätzliche Bedeutung für die Funktionsweise des menschlichen Gedächtnisses. Ausserdem leistet das Projekt einen Beitrag zum Verständnis individueller Unterschiede im menschlichen Erleben und Verhalten.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 30.09.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
A persistent memory advantage is specific to grapheme-colour synaesthesia
Lunke Katrin, Meier Beat (2020), A persistent memory advantage is specific to grapheme-colour synaesthesia, in Scientific Reports, 10(1), 3484-3484.
Creativity and involvement in art in different types of synaesthesia
Lunke Katrin, Meier Beat (2019), Creativity and involvement in art in different types of synaesthesia, in British Journal of Psychology, 727-744.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
University of Sussex, Dr. Rothen and Dr. Ward Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Clinical Neuroscience Meeting Poster Enhanced divergent creativity and visual-spatial abilities in different types of synaesthesia 25.05.2018 Bern, Switzerland Meier Beat; Lunke Katrin;
Psychonomic Society International Meeting, Amsterdam Poster Absolute pitch provides for unique learning opportunities. 10.05.2018 Amsterdam, Netherlands Meier Beat;
Psychonomic Society International Meeting, Amsterdam Poster Outlasting Memory Advantage in Synaesthesia: Evidence After One Year 10.05.2018 Amsterdam, Netherlands Meier Beat; Lunke Katrin;
Clinica Neuroscoience Meeting Poster Evidence for a synaesthesia specific advantage in episodic memory 08.09.2017 Bern, Switzerland Lunke Katrin; Meier Beat;
ICOM Talk given at a conference Domain-specific working memory advantage in synaesthetes. International Conference of Memory 17.07.2016 Budapest, Hungary Lunke Katrin; Meier Beat;
UK Synaesthesia Association Conference Poster Testing the specificity of memory advantages in synaesthesia 21.04.2016 Dublin, Ireland Lunke Katrin; Meier Beat;
UK Synaesthesia Association Conference Poster Blue bananas: development of a task to investigate the representation of synaesthetic experiences 21.04.2016 Dublin, Ireland Meier Beat; Ovalle Fresa Rebecca;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Other activities Synaesthesia German-speaking Switzerland 2017

Abstract

Synaesthesia is a rare developmental condition with a prevalence of about 4%, in which ordinary stimuli trigger extra-ordinary experiences. For example, in grapheme-colour synaesthesia a digit (e.g., “5”, referred to as the inducer) may trigger a specific colour experience (e.g., “blue”, referred to as the concurrent). Importantly, the inducer-concurrent pairs are idiosyncratic, but highly consistent, and the experience of the concurrent is typically triggered automatically. Previous research has found that people with synaesthesia show an advantage in a variety of memory tasks, some involving memory for inducer stimuli, but some involving also concurrent stimuli, or even materials not directly related to synaesthesia. So far, most of the research has been limited to grapheme-colour synaesthesia. However, it is possible that, given that any form of synaesthesia provides for a richer world of experiences which may trigger additional spontaneous associations and thus lead to elaborated memory traces and consequently to an advantage in memory retrieval, the memory advantage is not restricted to grapheme-colour synaesthesia.In this project, the goal is to investigate people with grapheme-colour synaesthesia, people with sound-colour synaesthesia, people with both grapheme-colour synaesthesia and sound-colour synaesthesia, and in addition, people with sequence-space synaesthesia and non-synaesthete control group. All participants will be given three episodic memory tests which involve a) words, b) music, and c) colours. This allows to test whether synaesthesia is inducer-specific, domain-specific or even more general. Moreover, as previous research has investigated memory performance only over the short term (typically within one test session), a further goal is to re-test the participants in order to find out whether synaesthesia in fact leads to better memory over the long-term. Overall, this study will contribute to the understanding of the cognitive consequences of synaesthesia for memory. In particular, this is the first study to compare the specificity of the memory advantage across different types of synaesthesia, to test whether the presence of multiple forms of synaesthesia lead to additional memory advantages, and whether the memory advantages persist across time.
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