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7 is scarlet

Almost a quarter of Irish people's senses overlap, say these Young Scientists

This BT Young Scientist project suggests there are more people with this neurological condition than you might think. / YouTube

DO YOU ASSOCIATE certain colours with letters or numbers, or feel a texture as you listen to a type of music? Is ‘a’ always red, or ’2′ always blue?

If so, you’re not alone. Far from it – one of 550 BT Young Scientist projects suggests it’s quite common.

Research by three girls from Co Sligo, entitled ’7 is Scarlet’, suggests the neurological condition that involves senses overlapping each other is more common than we might have first thought.

The condition, called synaesthesia, means that you might associate colours, symbols, feelings or shapes with things that have no obvious link.

“You might think ‘a’ is red or two is green,” Ailbhe Morgan explains, one of the three Young Scientists from Ursuline College who researched the condition in their area.

They did this by sending out surveys for people to fill in, and got over 1,700 responses back. Ava O’Grady flicks through one of the booklet responses to show some of the surveys – some sheets completely in black and white, others with colourful numbers and letters.

shutterstock_389528644 Shutterstock / Jag_cz Shutterstock / Jag_cz / Jag_cz

Through their method of assessing the answers, they think that 23.75% of those who answered the surveys have the condition, a “huge result”, says Eimear Kearins.

Most interestingly, they found that there wasn’t much of a difference between the number of men and women who were synaesthetes, but if you were interested in music, art or sport, that you were more likely to have the condition.

A conference on synesthesia held in April of this year discussed a possible link between synaesthesia, autism and savant syndrome, and factors affecting the associations of colours and letters.

5/1/2016 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibitions Mark Stedman Mark Stedman

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin presented case studies at the conference, of synaesthetes who see coloured auras around people, and of those whose synaesthesia was lost due to head injury or medications, but subsequently returned.

So will these three students be among future science researchers in the future? Are they interested in pursuing science?

They nod their heads in unison, “It gave us a greater perspective about how people walking around can be different from us,” Ava says, smiling at the exciting thought of a different way of viewing the same thing.

Eimear adds “It also made us realise how much work was involved in a Young Scientist project!”

Read: The science of the Cork accent: This year’s BT Young Scientist expo is already turning heads

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