Well, this is a first. No, really, a man going by the name of PH is the first known diagnosis of a deeply odd and presumably infuriating condition: he hears voices out of sync, as though he’s watching a movie with out-of-sync dubbing.
PH first noticed his condition after heart surgery to repair an inflammatory condition. He was watching television at his daughter’s house and thought her set was out of sync. Then he went to another TV in the house and noticed the same problem. Except it wasn’t the TVs.
Our brains receive sound and light at different times because of how fast they travel. But the brain compiles the information at different speeds, so that we perceive them as simultaneous. We actually don’t really know how it does this. Broad theory says that different information is processed at different rates independently of other forms of sensory data — so sound and vision don’t overlap — and the timing just sort of works itself out. In PH’s case, one of his “clocks” is significantly slowed, and it happened suddenly enough that his brain is unable to trick itself into unifying the data. It’s unclear if the condition was triggered by something involving his heart surgery, or if it was a pre-existing condition aggravated by the procedure or other medications or anything else.
Maybe even weirder than all that, PH actually hears himself speaking before he feels his jaw moving. So it’s possible several of his sensory clocks have been slowed. Although it seems unlikely that the hearing speed was just supercharged, it would be the most frustrating superpower ever. Still, PH seems to be at peace with the condition. While doctors are still working on treatments to possibly slow down his hearing, he’s learning to live with it. And also, we hope, learning the audio correction settings on his TV. [New Scientist]