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Test to see if you have condition where you taste words

 

A student has been diagnosed with a condition that causes her to taste and smell different foods every time she hears certain words.

Annie Bird, 19, tastes mango juice every time she hears a song by pop star Lana Del Rey.

She also tastes stale bread when she hears the word ‘judge’, while the word ‘left’ makes her feel as if she has eaten McDonald’s chips.

Now the University of Sussex is studying Annie and has devised an online test you can take to see if you suffer from lexical-gustatory synaesthesia – which is thought to affect one in 500 people.

Annie revealed her senses can become overloaded – such as when she tastes cement and rotten food – causing her panic attacks.

‘Having this condition makes me more creative and certainly makes listening to music a lot more interesting than if I was just listening to it normally,’ she said.

‘Most people think what I have is a bit mad, and I suppose it is, but it’s what’s makes me different and I like that.’

To test if you have the condition visit here.   

Annie Bird, 19,  has suffered with lexical-gustatory synaesthesia all her life

Annie Bird, 19,  has suffered with lexical-gustatory synaesthesia all her life

Annie Bird, 19,  has suffered with lexical-gustatory synaesthesia all her life

The theatre student says that she remembers first experiencing the condition at one years old

The theatre student says that she remembers first experiencing the condition at one years old

The theatre student says that she remembers first experiencing the condition at one years old

WORDS AND SOUNDS ANNIE TASTES 

The 1975 – bubble bath

Lana Del Rey – mango juice being poured down her throat

Stormzy- moist, freshly baked, muffins

The band Glass Animals – thick chlorine-tasting liquid

Bongo drums – oranges, and sometimes patatas bravas

Stella – rubbery cheese and tuna

Oblige – sweet porridge

Left – chips

Glass – saliva

Judge – stale bread

Lotion – blackcurrant milk

Michelle – cold metal

Cherish – fabric shoved in her mouth

Music – sweet toothpaste

People – the smell of aeroplanes

Ostrich – salty, warm, fluffy, tangy dust

The sound of a car going over gravel – fruity

‘I assumed everyone tasted songs’ 

Annie, from Edinburgh, also revealed that when she hears hip hop legend Stormzy perform triggers the taste of delicious freshly-baked muffins.

She also tastes bubble bath when songs by the rock band The 1975 are played and rubbery cheese mixed with tuna after hearing the name ‘Stella’.

She said she has had the rare disorder her entire life.  

Annie’s first memory of having a ‘word-taste’ experience was when she first started talking aged one, when her parents, Cathy Abbott, 56, and Adrian Bird, 70, played the electronic band, Lemon Jelly, at her family home.

She said: ‘I remember really tasting the music. It was a really strong chemical taste, but I assumed everyone tasted it, too.’

But when she started telling friends about the whacky sensations she experienced she started to research her symptoms.

‘I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. I always thought it was normal, and that everyone else tasted certain words or music,’ said Annie, who is studying theatre at Glasgow University.

‘It was only when I was 13, when I was watching a YouTube video, that I heard of synaesthesia – which is where a sensation in one of the senses, like hearing, triggers a sensation in another, such as taste.

‘I started researching it and came across lexical-gustatory synaesthesia and thought, ‘that’s me!’

The University of Sussex says many people will be unaware they have the condition and will presume like Annie did that everyone else experiences the same symptoms 

The University of Sussex says many people will be unaware they have the condition and will presume like Annie did that everyone else experiences the same symptoms 

The University of Sussex says many people will be unaware they have the condition and will presume like Annie did that everyone else experiences the same symptoms 

Disgusting tastes 

Annie completed a questionnaire on a psychology website, which confirmed she has a type of synaesthesia where she sees colours when she reads or hears numbers and months.

She says her online research confirmed her self-diagnosis.

‘Because the condition is more of a psychological one, rather than medical one, and there’s nothing that can be done to fix it, I thought I would trust what it said online, rather than going to the doctor,’ she explained.

Some of the more bizarre tastes Annie experiences when hearing certain words include rubbery cheese and tuna, blackcurrant milk, cold metal and fabric

Some of the more bizarre tastes Annie experiences when hearing certain words include rubbery cheese and tuna, blackcurrant milk, cold metal and fabric

Some of the more bizarre tastes Annie experiences when hearing certain words include rubbery cheese and tuna, blackcurrant milk, cold metal and fabric

The 19-year-old revealed her senses can become overloaded

The 19-year-old revealed her senses can become overloaded

The 19-year-old revealed her senses can become overloaded

Throughout her life, Annie has experienced the random, and often unpalatable, tastes.

She said: ‘Sometimes, when people are talking to me, I try not to wince or spit if they say certain words which taste horrible.

‘It’s not a common word, but the colour ‘puce’ makes me taste rotten food, which is really disgusting.

‘And the word ‘thrills’ is like the smell of cement in my mouth, while the sound of bongo drums makes me taste oranges, or sometimes the Spanish tapas dish, patatas bravas.’

Panic attacks 

Sometimes Annie’s senses can become overloaded, leading to her experience mild panic attacks.

She said: ‘When I started listening to music by myself, it sometimes became overwhelming.

‘I try not to make a big deal of it when I taste strange things, but when I do try to explain what’s happening, some people think I’m exaggerating. They say it’s not a real condition, when I tell them about it – but it certainly is.

‘The taste isn’t specific to voices or accents, but it’s the tone of certain words and lyrics which gets me. My reactions can be especially powerful if I am reading, too.’

Annie is sharing her story to help other people, who may have similar symptoms, but don’t know why, to be aware of the condition.

She said: ‘Whenever I hear a word or a piece of music, I experience a really random taste, too.

The Glasgow University student pictured with her mother Cathy Abbott and brother in 2015

The Glasgow University student pictured with her mother Cathy Abbott and brother in 2015

The Glasgow University student pictured with her mother Cathy Abbott and brother in 2015

‘There are probably lots of other people out there with the condition who don’t know what it is, and I want to help them.’

‘People don’t know they have it’ 

President of the UK Synaesthesia Association James Wannerton, 58, who also has lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, said: ‘Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia is extremely rare condition and a lot people who I speak to through the association self-diagnose

‘Often when people go to their GP there’s not much he or she can do because there is no cure, and so many people don’t even know they have it.’

Professor Julia Simner, Director of Multisense Synaesthesia Laboratory at the University of Sussex, said: ‘Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia is a condition that causes unusual taste experiences in response to everyday activities like reading.

‘We have a large European funded project to study synaesthesia across the lifespan and have recently developed a number of online tests for synaesthesia, and some specifically for this condition.

‘We’re currently validating our tests now on large samples of people with synaesthetic tastes, and ask people, like Annie, to take part in our online test.’  

WHAT IS SYNAESTHESIA?

Synaesthesia is a condition that causes people to experience different senses at the same time.

For example, the most common type of synesthesia, colour-graphemic, causes those with the condition to associate words and numbers with colours.

Across the world, one in every 5,000 people have synesthesia, according to Boston University.  

But lexical-gustatory synaesthesia is a rare form of the condition and affects less than one in 100,000 people.

James Wannerton, the president of UK Synaesthesia Association said: ‘Synaesthesia is caused by cross activation between two normally separate areas of the brain.

‘An individual with synaesthesia has extra neural connections linking these separate areas.

‘The stimulation of one sense causes an involuntary reaction in one or more of the other senses.

‘Someone with synaesthesia may for example, hear colour or see sound.’

 

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