32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2009
Dr. Richard Cytowic and David Eagleman serve up a feast for the senses in this wonderful synesthesia book.
Not only is it full of scientific and anecdotal evidence for the condition, it is also highly readable, features eye-popping graphics and rings true for those of us who experience the condition.
With an afterword by Dmitri Nabokov and a rare interview with artist David Hockney (both synesthetes) those who appreciate both the sciences and the arts will find something to love here.
In the spirit of Dr. Oliver Sacks, their empathy and caring for their subjects shines through with great humanity.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
This book provides a detailed examination of the science of synesthesia. Cytowic and Eagleman are leading synesthesia researchers. In this book, they present a detailed description of synesthesia, providing a catalog of synesthesia experiences and an overview of current theories of how these experiences come about. Types of synesthesia experiences are enumerated in the first part of the book, with separate chapters devoted to graphemes provoking colors, sounds provoking colors, spatial sequences provoking forms, sensations involving taste, and emotional triggers and synesthetic sensations. The authors also discuss the connection of synesthesia experiences to metaphor and art before delving into the neuropsychology and science behind synesthesia. The book is well documented with endnotes citing numerous published studies and an extensive bibliography.
This book is a very formal description of synethestic phenomena, but still accessible to general readers. I didn't find the first part of the book, in which the various kinds of synthestic experiences are described in detail, particularly engaging, but others, especially those who experience synesthesia themselves may be reassured in finding that synesthesia is indeed a recognized and normal part of the human experience for many people. I found the last part of the book, in which the authors describe the varying theories behind synesthesia quite informative and thought-provoking. The authors argue that "synesthesia is a latent capacity in everyone." They remind us that seeing is a matter of perception in the brain, not a direct reflection of the physical environment. And finally, they point out that synesthesia may only be the tip of the iceberg for cross talk within the brain, noting "What would be the consequence of increased cross talk between brain regions that are not sensory--for example, between frontal areas involved in cognition or moral reasoning? What happens when areas involved in memory and planning express higher than normal interaction? Could this be the basis of increased creativity, intelligence, or madness? Our future understanding of the mechanism of synesthesia may shed light on mental, cognitive, and emotional talents or disorders."
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2009
Unbelievable! This is a whole new world I never knew existed. The chapter on art and creativity is fascinating in its discussion of synesthetic artists.The section on David Hockey (complete with an interview!) is worth the price alone. The book is loaded with gorgeous color illustrations. I wish I had this ability. I'm still walking around stunned at the scope of Cytowic and Eagleman's work. The writing is beautiful, too, with a strong voice. You'd never guess it was written by two people.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2012
This book review was completed as a class assignment at Georgia Tech.
Richard Cytowic and David Eagleman's "Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia" is a great read for anyone interested in learning about synesthesia and synesthetic experiences. The book is well structured, and filled with examples and testimonials from individuals with various forms of synesthesia. In addition to the entertaining and informative stories, the book also covers the current state of research in the field of synesthesia; from protocols used to tease out the differences between the synesthetic and nonsynesthetic brain to theories of how and why some brains develop synesthesia while others do not.
The book begins with an anecdote to convey the view of synesthesia from the inside perspective and open the reader's mind. There is no way of confirming that the reality you experience is the same as your neighbor's reality. In fact, abnormal experiences, such as those experienced by synesthetes, prove to us that this is not the case. Delving into such extraordinary cases can teach us many things about the brain that we would not otherwise uncover. For this reason, the study of synesthesia is valuable, and will continue to expand as we gain a deeper understanding of how we perceive the world in which we live.
The first chapter of the book explains difficulties with establishing an accurate prevalence of synesthesia. Individuals that have synesthesia have always had synesthesia, and generally assume that everyone else perceives the world in the same way, much as nonsynesthetes do. When they discover that is not the case, they often switch extremes, believing that nobody experiences what they experience. This alone is enough to keep most synesthetes from volunteering information about their internal experiences. Further, due to the extensive diversity of synesthetic cases, it is difficult to define precisely what constitutes synesthesia.
In chapter 2, the authors discuss a few of the forms of synesthesia in detail; from the research data detailing measurable consistencies, to the subjective descriptions of the idiosyncrasies of the synesthetic experience. The chapter begins with more common forms, including number forms, colored graphemes, and tasted words. It continues into descriptions of rarer presentations of synesthesia, such as audio-motor, geometric pain, and sound to touch. Following the examples, the authors question why some kinds of synesthesia are more common than others, and whether there are limits on the variations of synesthesia left to be uncovered.
While much of this book highlights benefits of having the "gift" of synesthesia, such as enhanced memory, in certain cases, the synesthetic experience can be burdensome. An example of this is provided in a synesthete with consistent bidirectional sound-color synesthesia. This synesthete explains that she avoids places with bright lights and loud noises, like the circus, whenever possible because she is unable to distinguish her synesthetic sensations from what is real, and that such an experience can be frightening and exhausting.
This example of such an intense synesthetic experience is in contrast to `milder' forms, such as grapheme-color synesthesia. In grapheme-color synesthesia, letters evoke a sensation of color, but in some individuals, the associations may be weak or even nonpresent for some letters of the alphabet. Such variances in intensity of the experience lead to the question: how much synesthesia is normal? The author proposes a cognitive continuum that ranges from perceptual similarities, to synesthetic equivalences to metaphoric identities to abstract language. The book makes a point to explain that synesthesia is perceptual and not merely metaphoric depictions of normal experience, but suggests that the human capacity to understand metaphor may be linked in some way to the ability for the brain to create synesthetic associations.
The authors describe the landscape of associations in the brain as being similar to a mountainous landscape, in which only some of the peaks break through the cloud cover of consciousness. Further, they claim that, if this were the case, the cross-connections of synesthesia may be present in all brains, but contained below the level of consciousness. Supporting this claim, both synesthetes and nonsynesthetes consistently match higher pitches with brighter colors when asked. Further, the use of phrases of abstract language such as "a loud tie" or "cool jazz" shows that the normal human brain is capable of making and understanding cross-modal associations. However, in most cases, the associations made by synesthesia, such as a pain that feels like the shape of a grid, are foreign to the general population.
The book closes with a description of the current state of synesthesia research and some questions ahead of us on the path to understanding synesthesia. The authors remind us that synesthesia is not localized in one brain region, and that we should be looking throughout distributed networks to understand it. They also suggest that we should be asking not whether cross-talk is present, but to what extent. They claim that both the cross-talk theory and the disinhibited feedback model of synesthesia are incomplete because they do not yet incorporate the role of learning. Depending on both genetics and learning over a ifetime, there are many possible ways in which brain areas may interconnect, leading to different forms of synesthesia. Studies are beginning to explore the individual differences of synesthetes. Finally, they state it is possible for a single gene to underlie all of the different forms of synesthesia, as the condition may be inherited in various forms, but to date, such a gene has not been found.
"Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia" was an incredible book, and I would recommend it as both a knowledgeable book for anyone seeking to gain a well rounded understanding of synesthesia and an enjoyable book for a leisure read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2012
I read this book, and watched Videos of Dr. Eagleman on this topic. I have a personal interest in Synesthesia, and I find it amazing how common it really is. I often wonder why no one really talks about it. I definitely think that people should take more interest in Neuroscience because it does pertain to who they are...really are.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2011
This is an extremely well written book about the science and experience of Synesthesia. It offers a great introduction into the bioanatomical components of the brains of synesthetes. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a more in-depth introduction to the intriguing phenomenon.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2009
This handsome book is well written and I feel will appeal to both the casual reader and more techincally minded reader as well. Wednesday Is Indigo Blue, tells how we all can "see" the same "something," share about it, but really have percieved this "something" quite differently often on several levels. The human brain is fascinating... but this book gives us new perceptions on how we understand as individuals.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2009
I have read many books on Neuroscience- but none have kept me as entertained as "Wednesday Is Indigo Blue"
Cytowic and Eagleman have accomplished what so many others have tried- turning a scientific text into a page turner- I could not put this book down- IT IS A WONDERFUL WORK !!!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2009
Science and the arts converge to provide an in depth look at this fascinating condition. The anecdotes used in the book serve to illustrate the endless expressions of synesthesia, and build a bridge to the more technical discussions. I've gained a new perspective to view the world!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2014
"In synesthesia two or more senses are automatically and involuntarily coupled such that a voice, for example, is not only heard, but additionally felt, seen, or tasted." It is a genetic modification that affects sensory perception and mixes sensations and perceptions that are separated in different areas of the brain, so it can mix sounds with colours, touch with images, numbers with music, and so on. Synesthesia has forced neurologists to rethink the traditional block/area division of the brain in self-sufficient and independent areas that are devoted to specific tasks and worked its play in the validation of neuroplasticity.
The book is written by two neurologists and synesthesia researchers, and offers the reader a clear, entertaining and well organized description, categorization and analysis of the different neurological conditions called synesthesia, which affected, among other famous people, writer Nabokov and painter Kandinsky. The books is scientifically rigorous but written in a very approachable language, easily understandable by the lay reader, with a great deal of pictures, diagrams and drawings that will help you to understand better. Still, it contains the notes, footnotes, bibliography necessary to made it academic-friendly. The book as an epilogue by Navokok's son Dimitri, who, like his father, is also a synaesthete.
The book can be a bit dry at times, as the matter is scientifically described and categorized, but here the detail in the description is not superfluous as it serves to highlight the many variations and varieties of synasthesia, a word that in fact describes things that are very different from a perceptual and sensorial point of view.
The tones and writing styles of the two authors are evident through the book, even though none of the chapters is attributed to any of them explicitly. The last two chapters are, perhaps, the most interesting ones for both neurology students and neurology aficionados.
The edition of the book is wonderful, with glossy paper, coloured headers and footers differentiated by chapter, and plenty of illustrations. One o those books that are rarely published in our modern times, especially because the book is directed to the general public not just the medical world. A book difficult to find and a bit expensive that, however, you can borrow from your local library and really enjoy.
The book will fascinate you, especially if you haven't heard or read anything about synesthesia before, and have a fascination for neurology and the study of the brain.