By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – You’ve heard the expression, “I feel your pain,” but some people actually do, including a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who is able to connect with his patients on a level most can’t.

Dr. Joel Salinas is not your average doctor.

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“When I see people, I have the sensation of whatever touches their body on my own body as well and it’s kind of reflected as a mirror,” he told WBZ-TV.

It’s called mirror touch synesthesia.

He’s had this trait for as long as he can remember. In fact, he thought everyone had it.

“When I was a kid, having these experiences where if I would see someone hug I would feel the hug on myself or if I would see someone get hit, I felt the sensation on me as well,” explains Dr. Salinas.

Dr. Joel Salinas (WBZ-TV)

Dr. Joel Salinas (WBZ-TV)

He doesn’t really feel it as pain, per se, but says the sensations can still be unsettling.

He recounted an experience in medical school.

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“I remember one patient who unfortunately had an amputation of the arm from an accident.  I remember feeling as though my arm was dismembered and I could feel the blood.”

Somewhere between one-percent and two-percent of the population have mirror touch synesthesia.

For some, like Dr. Salinas, it’s an asset. For others, it’s a burden.

“They’re kind of crushed by those sensations because it’s too much and it’s overwhelming and they develop issues with anxiety and depression and essentially become shut-ins at times,” said Dr. Salinas, who has learned to focus his mind so the cues he’s constantly bombarded with don’t distract him.

When asked if it makes him a better doctor, he says, “I think it’s empowered me to really connect with my patients. There’s a wall that’s torn down when you feel a lot of the sensations that your patients feel as well. It’s like being aggressively put in somebody else’s shoes.”

Dr. Salinas wouldn’t have it any other way.

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“It’s part of who I am. It would be really weird not to have it.”

Dr. Mallika Marshall