Objective Prior work raises the interesting possibility that both multiple sclerosis and synesthesia share a common etiology, that being immune system dysfunction, as well as neuroanatomical and neurochemical abnormalities, including those involving white matter and serotonergic pathways, respectively. Given these links between these two syndromes, we examined the possibility that prevalence of synesthesia would be elevated in a population of individuals with MS, relative to what is thought to be the prevalence in the neurotypical population. It was not known whether synesthesia might be a marker for subsequent development of MS, or if synesthesia might reflect neurological damage resulting from MS disease progression. Method Individuals with self- reported clinically definite MS were recruited online via the internet and social media using sites specifically relevant to the MS community. Data from 147 individuals who completed several questionnaires related to synesthesia were analyzed. Results Depending on criteria, between approximately 7 and 16% of individuals with MS reported synesthesia here. This is an estimated 1.57 to 3.55 times increased incidence of synesthesia here relative to previous findings in neurotypical samples. Limitations of the study include that this was an internet survey, and that synesthesia was not directly assessed in this sample. Conclusions Results suggest a link between the syndromes, primarily indicating that synesthesia may be a marker for subsequent MS development, and the implications and directions for future study are discussed.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.