I’m Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist and researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. I have mirror-touch synesthesia—a neurologic trait that causes me to physically feel everything the people around me physically feel.....
Hi Reddit! I’m Joel Salinas, a neurologist, clinical fellow in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry, and research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
I have synesthesia, which is a sensory processing condition that means that, when I experience something with one of my senses, I involuntary experience it through other senses, too (from hearing colors and tasting sounds to experiencing people as numbers). One particular form of synesthesia I have is mirror-touch synesthesia, where I physically feel everything the people around me physically feel. For example, if I were to see someone touch your cheek I would simultaneously, involuntarily, and vividly experience the same sensation of being touched on my own cheek. If you get a slap on the wrist, I feel a slap on my wrist. If you have a needle placed in your arm, I feel the needle placed in my arm… and so on. While it’s a very natural part of my day-to-day life given that I’ve had it since I can remember, being a neurologist that works with patients on a daily basis and having mirror-touch synesthesia makes for an interesting experience. It certainly gives a whole new meaning to “empathy”! It also makes practicing mindfulness go from optional to obligatory.
A recent piece in Pacific Standard Magazine told my story and touched on my work: http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/is-mirror-touch-synesthesia-a-superpower-or-a-curse
Having a little more insight into what my patients are feeling than most, I've always placed a lot of importance on my patients' needs as a person. Our thoughts, our feelings, and even the ability to simply perceive the world around us is precious. It helps shape who we are as a person. To me, it seems far too simple how that can all be stolen tragically by age-related brain diseases like stroke and dementia. That's why I made the decision to become a neurologist and work on developing the science and clinical application of preventive neurology and cognitive medicine. I believe both are critical to helping people live happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
As a researcher, my goal is to answer two big questions:
- How do we develop and practically apply strategies to prevent the onset of devastating, chronic, age-related brain diseases (such as dementia and stroke)?
- How can we preserve and optimize cognitive function over the course of the human lifespan?
Reach out to talk about synesthesia, brain health, early prevention of neurologic disease, healthcare delivery systems, unconventional ideas in health and technology, or anything else!
If you need more convincing I’m real: http://www2.massgeneral.org/neurologyresidents/team/2015.html http://med.miami.edu/news/profiles/salinas-packs-his-impressive-resume-for-harvard
Really looking forward to chatting with you!
UPDATE: The AMA time is almost up, but I'll try to stick around to answer more questions.
UPDATE: I wish I could keep answering questions but have to run--thank you for all the great questions!
UPDATE: Since there were so many great questions I couldn't get to, I figured I'd hop back in briefly while I had some time.