Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Olympics Hits Leatherhead Surrey

The atmosphere for the men's road race was amazing. In how many other countries would the police get cheered as they rode past? Although we didn't win, the race seems to have inspired thousands to get on a bike, so a gold medal for legacy, then! David Donner

Olympic Countdown - Swimming

Synaesthesia is a condition in which there is cross-activation within the sensory areas of the brain, so that activity in one area (say vision), excites activity in another, such as smell. There are thought to be over a hundred different types, but in the most common form, letter, numbers of days/weeks/months of the year evoke the experience of colour. For some, swimming evokes colour. Danko Nikolic at the Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt has researched this phenomenon. In 2009, Hazem Toutounji, a national swimming champion for Syria, told Nikolic that each swimming style was bathed in a distinct colour in his mind's eye. Uta Jurgens, a graduate student of Nikolic's, and a keen swimmer, admitted that her trips to the pool, too, were awash with colour. She sees red whenever she swims the breaststroke. Backstroke is lavender, butterfly sky-blue. Nikolic and colleagues showed Jurgens and Toutounji, plus a group of non-synaesthete volunteers, four black-and-white photographs of swimmers performing front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly. Their task was to find the exact colour that the photos evoked in a book containing more than 5500 colours. A month later, Nikolic repeated the test. By assigning each colour in the book coordinates in a three-dimensional "colour space", he was able to calculate that the difference between the colours chosen on the two occasions was 8 times smaller for his synaesthetes than for non-synaesthetes. Nikolic then performed a second experiment, known as a Stroop Test. In the original Stroop Test, the names of colours were printed out but in the “wrong” colour. For instance, the word “red” might be printed in blue. It was found that it was much more difficult for participants to name the colour when it was printed in this way than when it was printed in red. In this test, the group were shown the same photographs with each photo printed in a different colour. The subjects were asked to name the colour of the photo as fast as possible. Both Toutounji and Jurgens took significantly longer to name the colour when it did not match the one evoked by their synaesthesia. These tests suggests that the concept of swimming can produce synaesthesia just as well as swimming itself, although there may be other forms, such as when touch produces certain emotions, where this is not the case. It seems that we may all have a bit of synaesthesia within us. In music, many of us associate low notes with dark colours and high notes with brighter ones. It’s thought that this crossover of senses may lay behind human creativity. Some scientists believe it may even have been how humans developed language, if sounds evoked the object that was being described. I don’t think I’m very creative: I wish I saw more colours when I swim – it would certainly make it more fun. David Donner