The rare condition mirror-touch synesthesia causes Dr. Joel Salinas to experience other people’s emotions and sensations. Is it a superpower or a curse, asks Pacific Standard:
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No one, it seemed, knew what the patient clutching the stuffed blue bunny was feeling. At 33, he looked like a bewildered boy, staring at the doctors who crowded into his room in Massachusetts General Hospital. Lumpy oyster-sized growths shrouded his face, the result of a genetic condition that causes benign tumors to develop on the skin, in the brain, and on organs, hindering the patient’s ability to walk, talk, and feel normally. He looked like he was grimacing in pain, but his mother explained that her son, Josh, did not have a clear threshold for pain or other sensations. If Josh felt any discomfort at all, he was nearly incapable of expressing it.
“Any numbness?” asked Joel Salinas, a soft-spoken doctor in the Harvard Neurology Residency Program, a red-tipped reflex hammer in his doctor’s coat pocket.