Synesthesia: Perspectives from Cognitive Neuroscience

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Owing to its bizarre nature and its implications for understanding how brains work, synesthesia has recently received a lot of attention in the popular press and motivated a great deal of research and discussion among scientists. The questions generated by these two communities are intriguing: Does the synesthetic phenomenon require awareness and attention? How does a feature that is not present become bound to one that is? Does synesthesia develop or is it hard wired? Should it change our way of thinking about perceptual experience in general? What is its value in understanding perceptual systems as a whole?

This volume brings together a distinguished group of investigators from diverse backgrounds—among them neuroscientists, novelists, and synesthetes themselves—who provide fascinating answers to these questions. Although each approaches synesthesia from a very different perspective, and each was curious about and investigated synesthesia for very different reasons, the similarities between their work cannot be ignored. The research presented in this volume demonstrates that it is no longer reasonable to ask whether or not synesthesia is real—we must now ask how we can account for it from cognitive, neurobiological, developmental, and evolutionary perspectives. This book will be important reading for any scientist interested in brain and mind, not to mention synesthetes themselves, and others who might be wondering what all the fuss is about.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is a good basis here for starting to understand this extraordinary phenomenon, but also a great store of unanswered questions waiting to be explored."—Physiology News

"Red and blue do equal yellow for some and in Synesthesia it's proven true." —Lancet

"Overall, this work provides a broad cross-section of interest for synaesthesia researchers, and does so in a readable and comprehensive way...I recommend this book to researchers and students, in philosophy, psychology, or neuroscience, and it is a must-read for those wishing to get aquainted with the unusual and fascinating phenomenon."—Perception

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Michael Joel Schrift, DO, MA (University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine)
Description: This is a fascinating new book on the cognitive neuroscience of synesthesia, the experience of perceiving a sensation in one sensory modality when another sensory modality is stimulated. This phenomenon is important in that it triggers a range of questions concerning awareness and attention, connections with the brain, and the nature of perception as well. The book is written and edited by an array of outstanding researchers in cognitive neuroscience. This was a delightful book to read and is a welcome addition to the cognitive neuroscience field.
Purpose: According to the editors, the purpose of the book is "to simulate thought across a wide spectrum, from computations that could produce such phenomena to philosophical questions of functionalism that the existence of synesthesia may question." Indeed the editors and chapter authors have provided us an excellent book on this intriguing scientific puzzle.
Audience: The intended audience includes psychologists, neurophysiologists, philosophers interested in cognitive neuroscience.
Features: The book features 266 pages divided into 5 sections and 12 chapters. The first section is an overview of synesthesia covering demographics and a variety of experiences. Section Two reviews the literature on the perceptual reality of synesthetic color, color-grapheme synesthesia, the binding problem, and how attention factors in. Section Three addresses the issue of how synesthesia relates to the problem of consciousness. Developmental aspects of synesthesia are summarized in Section Four. The concluding section is a commentary regarding the implications synethesia has for attention, binding, and consciousness. Each chapter contains relevant and up-to-date references. The book ends with a helpful author and subject indices.
Assessment: This is an exciting new book covering a most interesting phenomenon. Anyone interested in cognitive neuroscience should enjoy reading this outstanding coverage of synesthesia.

3 Stars from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195166231
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/14/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Robertson has been studying abnormal perception and attention for over 20 years. Her early experiments in visual spatial deficits and hemispheric asymmetries are now classic, and she was one of the first wave of experimentally trained psychologists to integrate cognitive psychology with human neuropsychology, creating the field that has become known as cognitive neuroscience. Her recent work incorporates the study of unusual developmental visual phenomena, such as those found in synesthesia.
Noam Sagiv received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in cognitive psychology after studying physics, chemistry, and neurobiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is now a research fellow at University College London. He studies visual perception in normal subjects, neurological patients and special populations using behavioral, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging methods. He is particularly interested in positive phenomena such as synesthesia, metamorphopsia, and hallucinations.

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Table of Contents

I. General Overview
1. Synesthesia in perspective, Noam Sagiv
2. Some demographic and socio-cultural aspects of Synesthesia, Sean Day
3. Varieties of Synesthetic Experience, Christopher W. Tyler
II. Perception and Attention
4. On the perceptual reality of synesthetic color, Randolph Blake, Thomas J. Palmeri, Rene Marois and Chai-Youn Kim
5. Binding of graphemes and synesthetic colors in grapheme-color Synesthesia, Daniel Smilek, Mike J. Dixon and Philip M. Merikle
6. Synesthesia and the binding problem, Noam Sagiv and Lynne C. Robertson
7. Can attention modulate color-graphemic Synesthesia?, Anina N. Rich and Jason B. Mattingley
III. Consciousness and Cognition
8. Synesthesia: A window on the hard problem of consciousness, Jeffrey Gray
9. Emergence of the human mind: Some clues from Synesthesia, V.S. Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard
IV. Development and Learning
10. Neonatal synesthesia: A re-evaluation, Daphne Maurer and Catharine J. Mondloch
11. Development constraints on theories of Synesthesia, Lawrence E. Marks & Eric C. Odgaard
V. Comment
12. Synesthesia: Implications for attention, binding and consciousness: A commentary, Anne Treisman

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