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Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia Hardcover – February 27, 2009
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"No one has done more than Richard Cytowic and David Eagleman to bring a careful neuroscientific attention to synesthesia, grounded in decades of research and reports from thousands of patients. Their work has changed the way we think of the human brain, and Wednesday Is Indigo Blue is a unique and indispensable guide for anyone interested in how we perceive the world." --Oliver Sacks(Oliver Sachs)
"A fascinating survey of the enormous variety and creativity of the synaesthetic mind."--Daniel Tammet, synesthete and author of Born on a Blue Day(Daniel Tammet)
"A fascinating survey of the enormous variety and creativity of the synesthetic mind." Daniel Tammet , synesthete and author of Born on a Blue Day
"Filled with detailed tables, clarifying illustrations, and instructive chapters, this title, which includes an afterword by Nabokov's son Dmitri (also a synesthete), should be required reading for teachers and anyone who works with children." Library Journal
"This is a clear, clever book that will appeal to synaesthetes in search of explanations, and to all with a passion for neurology's wild territory." Liz Else New Scientist
"Twenty years ago, synesthesia -- the automatic conjoining of two or more senses -- was regarded by scientists (if at all) as a rare curiosity. We now know that perhaps one person in twenty is synesthetic, and so we must regard it as an essential, and fascinating, part of the human experience. Indeed, it may well be the basis and inspiration for much of human imagination and metaphor. No one has done more than Richard Cytowic and David Eagleman to bring a careful neuroscientific attention to synesthesia, grounded in decades of research and reports from thousands of patients. Their work has changed the way we think of the human brain, and Wednesday Is Indigo Blue is a unique and indispensable guide for anyone interested in how we perceive the world." Oliver Sacks
About the Author
Richard E. Cytowic, M.D., founded Capitol Neurology, a private clinic in Washington, D.C., and teaches at George Washington University Medical Center. He is the author of Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses and The Man Who Tasted Shapes, both published by the MIT Press. David M. Eagleman, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Center for Synesthesia Research.
Top customer reviews
For parents, teachers and anyone else who wants to know more, this is a great book that is readable by the average lay person. I learned a lot, including wishing that could sense the world in this special way!
The authors begin by explaining what synesthesia is, that it is genetic, and that synesthetic links are almost always stable for life once formed. For example, if someone sees purple when he sees the letter B in childhood, he will continue to do so; he won't suddenly start seeing yellow when he sees the letter B. Although most synesthetes acquire their unusual sensory perception in middle childhood and keep it for a lifetime, there are some rare cases in which people may lose or gain synesthesia at puberty. In the second chapter, the authors introduce us to a long list of synesthetic types (e.g. number forms, colored graphemes, tasted words, colored hearing, personified graphemes, geometric pain, blindsight), some common among synesthetes, others rare. They explain, briefly, what these people experience and what the advantages and disadvantages might be. It's still unclear how much of the population is synesthetic. It might be as many as 1 in 23.
Chapters 3-7 are each dedicated to a type of synesthesia, each of which is explained in detail in all of its variations and illustrated where applicable. Real cases are presented, so we understand people's experiences in their own words. The synesthesia types that receive the chapter treatment are: grapheme -> color, sound -> shape/color/movement, sequence -> location, and "emotionally mediated synesthesia", which include synesthetic auras and synesthetic orgasms. Chapter 8 is dedicated to the relationship between synesthesia and art. The authors endeavor to answer three questions: "How can synesthesia help us understand the neurological basis of metaphor?" "What kinds of art does synesthesia inspire?" and "What might synesthesia tell us about creativity?" Chapter 9 discusses brain function in synesthesia. As "the normal brain is heavily cross-wired," the synesthete's brain has more cross-talk. The authors present theories as to why.
"Wednesday Is Indigo Blue" is a good introduction to the curiosities and questions posed by synesthesia. The hardback edition is nicely put together with colored chapter titles and bright illustrations on slick, heavy paper. It does a good job of showing us non-synesthetes what synesthetes experience. It's evident that research on synesthesia is likely to yield understanding that will be valuable to other fields of neuroscience. I found it particularly interesting that synesthesia explains the phenomenon of seeing aura around other people and that metaphor appears to be based, not on abstraction, but on "our physical interaction with a concrete world." The authors talk a little about LSD-induced synesthesia, sensory deprivation and release hallucinations, and synesthesia that is sometimes produced by prolonged meditative states and temporal lobe epilepsy. The writing is clear and fluid, intended for laypeople but not dumbed-down.
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."