Man sees colors that are absent to the average eye

This is how Chris Edwards sees the alphabet.

Chris Edwards has what doctors call synesthesia.

Synesthesia is a condition defined as the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.

There are different forms of synesthesia, but in Edwardsâ?? case he can see letters, numbers and days of the week in color.

â??Sometimes they kind of donâ??t realize that theyâ??re perceiving differently,â?? said Dr. Paul Callaghan, PsyD of Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.

Edwards said he is able to see black text for what it is, but his mind overlays the text with different colors. He said each letter, number and day of the week has a specific color.

â??One part of his brain is seeing it for what it is, another part of his brain is being activated and blending in something else,â?? Dr. Callaghan said. â??So thereâ??s a co-activation of different wiring systems that are co-mingling.â??

Dr. Callaghan said synesthesia is quite rare. Some studies quote only one in 100,000 people having it; however he thinks it is more common than that.

But as rare as the condition may be, Edwards does recall one other guy he went to high school with who was also synesthetic.

â??His was interesting because he saw letters, numbers and days of the week in color, but he also saw them with personifications,â?? Edwards said. â??So whereas for me, Wednesday would be yellow, his Wednesday would be green and spunky.â??

There are different variations of synesthesia in which different senses are co-activated.

â??Some people, this is a little bit more unusual, will when they hear a particular symphony like Beethovenâ??s 5th Symphony they will taste chocolate,â?? Dr. Callaghan said.

While it may sound distracting Edwards has actually found his condition to be useful.

â??For me it just helps with memorizing things from time to time,â?? Edwards said. â??If I introduce myself to someone and they introduce themselves to me, but I donâ??t entirely remember their name right off the bat, sometimes I can piece it back together with a color.â??

Edwards said there are also other benefits.

â??Basically, just using some of the letter sequences and whatnot I can come up with clues and passwords that make sense to me and can only really be deciphered by me,â?? Edwards said.

Dr. Callaghan said synesthesia is not a disorder it is just a condition that is typically inherited but there is also a learning component.

According to Callaghan, synesthesia is typically more common in women but everyone is somewhat synesthetic.

For instance, when a certain scent triggers a particular emotion or memory that is a moderate form of synesthesia.

â??Usually synesthesia doesnâ??t happen in a way that is disruptive it is usually just a unique way of perceiving the world,â?? Dr. Callaghan said.