People See Shape of Time

Photo via flickr by h.koppdelaney

As Sci-fi fans know, Time Lords—time-traveling humanoids with the ability to understand and perceive events throughout time and space—exist, but according to David Brang of the department of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, they really do walk among us. They are members of an elite group with the power to perceive the geography of time, a newly found category of ‘time-space synesthetes’ who experience time as a spacial construct.

Synesthesia is the condition in which the senses are mixed, so for example, a sound or a number has a color. Brang suspects that ‘time-space synesthesia’ happens when the neural processes underlying spatial processing are unusually active. In other words, they ‘see time.’

“In general, these individuals perceive months of the year in circular shapes, usually just as an image inside their mind’s eye,” states Brang. “These calendars occur in almost any possible shape, and many of the synaesthetes actually experience the calendar projected out into the real world.”

Brang and colleagues recruited 183 students and asked them to visualize the months of the year and construct this representation on a computer screen. Four months later the students were shown a blank screen and asked to select a position for each of the months. Uncannily, four of the 183 students were found to be time-space synaesthetes when they placed their months in a distinct spatial array—such as a circle—that was consistent over the trials.

One of Brang’s subjects was able to see the year as a circular ring surrounding her body. The “ring” rotated clockwise throughout the year so that the current month was always inside her chest with the previous month right in front of her chest.

Brang did not speculate on whether time-space synesthetes could regenerate, or if they have two hearts: both key characteristics of Time Lords.

via KurzweilAI and New Scientist

In a 2002 interview, Hinderk Emrich, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Hannover Medical School, discussed with Sputnik Observatory the possibility our sensorial evolution into synesthetes:

We have the evolution of biological systems. This is an evolution by Darwinian processes, by mutations, and so on. You have the evolution of brain, of course. The brain has this encephalization that means extremely growth of cortical structures. But we have not only these two types of evolution. We have also the cultural evolution, that means that in the past of about 10,000 years, enormous material of knowledge has evolved and we have to cope with this knowledge. And our brains have to cope with all of these fantastic possibilities of cognition. For example, it is very difficult for mathematicians to cope with the problem: how can I visualize the four-dimensional or five dimensional space? And synesthetes could, since they live in a hyperreality, a more complex reality, could internally represent more complex realities. So possibly synesthesia is a mode of cognitional evolution of mind. This is a speculation, we don’t know it, but in some regards synesthetes are higher, they have a more pronounced capacity of memorizing and they have very often mathematical abilities. And they can visualize complex realities so it is possible that synesthesia is one mode of the evolution of senses.

2 responses to “People See Shape of Time”

  1. Matt Warren says:

    This is intriguing. Thanks so much for sharing this interesting bit of science. I’m quite envious of this ability.

  2. The Shape of Time | The Long Game says:

    [...] on this topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginSputnik Observatory pointed me toward some really interesting stuff from the University of California at San Diego via KurzweilAI. Apparantly, there are some among us [...]

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