Spanish researchers say that healers who claim to be able to see the auras surrounding people are actually suffering synesthesia, the neuropsychological phenomenon where senses become intermingled in the brain. In synesthetes, the brain regions responsible for the processing of each type of sensory stimuli are cross-wired; they may see or taste a sound, feel a taste, or associate people with a particular color.
This is the first time that a scientific explanation has been provided for the esoteric phenomenon of the aura, a supposed energy field of luminous radiation surrounding a person as a halo. The study was conducted by University of Granada researchers óscar Iborra, Luis Pastor and Emilio Gómez Milán, and was published in the journalConsciousness and Cognition.
“In neurological terms, synesthesia is due to cross-wiring in the brain; in other words, synesthetes present more synaptic connections than normal people. These extra connections cause them to automatically establish associations between brain areas that are not normally interconnected,” explained Gómez Milán.
The researchers carried out the study by interviewing a number of synesthetes as well as the Spanish “healer” Esteban Sánchez Casas (also known as El Santón de Baza).
The researchers also note the significant placebo effect involved with healers and aura reading. “Though some healers see people’s auras and feel the pain in others due to synesthesia, [they also] have abilities and attitudes that make them believe in their ability to heal other people, but it is actually a case of self-deception, as synesthesia is not an extrasensory power, but a subjective and ‘adorned’ perception of reality,” the researchers conclude.