Auditory-motor synesthesia

Alternative names could be audio-motor, sound-to-kinetics, auditory-kinetic or auditory-kinesthetic synesthesia

This type of synesthesia, little known and not yet officially named, consists of involuntary body movements triggered by sound.

Some people - possibly auditory-tactile synesthetes in all cases - experience involuntary movements of different parts of the body, specific and consistent, in response to certain sounds. These may be either general or musical sounds.

The prevalence of this type of synesthesia is unknown. It appears to be rare, but it is probably more common than we realise as it is not yet a recognised type. More cases might be reported in the future when more is known about motor-related synesthesias.

Here are some descriptions written by people with this type of synesthesia:

“Whenever I listen to music I can't help but move my fingers, hands and arms in patterns that mimic what the song feels like to me. I can consciously stop doing it after it starts. (…) This isn't something like moving one's hands around mimicking playing a piano when listening to a piano song, rather, percussive, tonal, pitch and tempo fluctuations in songs make me move my hands and fingers.”

“The sensation is indescribable as far as I can tell, but it's somewhere between desire, need, and certainty that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.”

(Source: This post and comment on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2015 and 2013.)

“Some electronic sounds cause my face to twitch or twist. There are sounds that affect my eyebrows, my eyelids, my nose or my mouth. The same sound causes the same “tic” or movement and they repeat throughout the song whenever that particular sound occurs, following the same pattern when there’s a sequence. It isn’t pleasant or unpleasant, just curious really. I have to be relaxed and focused on the music for it to happen, with no distractions and preferably in the dark. I can’t recreate the movements unless I’m actually listening to the sounds: they are totally dependent on the music, I can’t honestly move my face like that. I made a video of it but I’m not thinking of showing it to anyone.”

(Pau 365, my own experience)

"Whenever I hear sounds, mainly music, I feel like I have to move a certain way. Yes, I know it's music. It's supposed to make you dance. But this is different than dancing. These movements aren't dance moves and don't necessarily move to the beat. It's more like, "This sound makes me want to look left. This sound makes me want to open the door with this hand. This sound makes me want to walk around these things instead of going in between them." And so on, and so on. If I don't do the motion I'm "supposed" to do, it feels like holding in a sneeze."

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2020.)


At least two of these people have auditory-tactile synesthesia. Perhaps this type of motor synesthesia is a variant of auditory-tactile. 

Go to the page on auditory-tactile synesthesia

Go to the page on motor synesthesia in general

Go to the page on lexical-motor synesthesia (words evoke certain actions)

Go to the page on mirror kinetics (involuntary movements on seeing other people move)

This page last updated: 06 June 2021

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