Sunday, May 15, 2011

Genomic polymorphisms trigger phantom limb pain and synesthesia

Well-known cognitive neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran (“Phantoms in the Brain”) has been extending his original phantom limb pain research into new realms over the last several years, facilitated by the advent of new tools such as fMRI and genomic analysis.

It turns out that phantom limb pain is related to other anomalies such as synesthesia, a ‘mis-wiring’ of the senses such that stimulation to one sense results in an experience in another (for example, someone may see Monday as red). In all of these cases, there is an overabundance of neural connections in the brain. Genomic polymorphisms prevent these connections from being pruned normally.

Synesthesia is 7-8 times more common in artists, which begs the question of creativity measurement. A synesthete’s depiction of the world he or she sees may look like creativity to non-synesthetes, but is it reporting or creativity from the synesthete’s viewpoint? Synesthetes of the same type would need to assess creativity.

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