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Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia [Print Replica] [Kindle Edition]

Richard E. Cytowic M.D. , Ph.D. Eagleman David M. , Dmitri Nabokov
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 0262516705
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-0262516709
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Book Description

A person with synesthesia might feel the flavor of food on her fingertips, sense the letter "J" as shimmering magenta or the number "5" as emerald green, hear and taste her husband's voice as buttery golden brown. Synesthetes rarely talk about their peculiar sensory gift--believing either that everyone else senses the world exactly as they do, or that no one else does. Yet synesthesia occurs in one in twenty people, and is even more common among artists. One famous synesthete was novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who insisted as a toddler that the colors on his wooden alphabet blocks were "all wrong." His mother understood exactly what he meant because she, too, had synesthesia. Nabokov's son Dmitri, who recounts this tale in the afterword to this book, is also a synesthete--further illustrating how synesthesia runs in families. <I>In Wednesday Is Indigo Blue</I>, pioneering researcher Richard Cytowic and distinguished neuroscientist David Eagleman explain the neuroscience and genetics behind synesthesia's multisensory experiences. Because synesthesia contradicted existing theory, Cytowic spent twenty years persuading colleagues that it was a real--and important--brain phenomenon rather than a mere curiosity. Today scientists in fifteen countries are exploring synesthesia and how it is changing the traditional view of how the brain works. Cytowic and Eagleman argue that perception is already multisensory, though for most of us its multiple dimensions exist beyond the reach of consciousness. Reality, they point out, is more subjective than most people realize. No mere curiosity, synesthesia is a window on the mind and brain, highlighting the amazing differences in the way people see the world.

Product Description


"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

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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4356 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (30 Sept. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0082FPAVE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #211,541 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and very up-to-date 13 April 2011
By E. Nash
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is very detailed but comprehensively written. (Almost) every "but how..?" is answered and even the 'looser' synaesthetic experiences (such as auras) are explored openly, with no sense of disregard or ridicule. For anyone with synaesthesia or with just an interest in it, this book is a must-read. For everyone else, it is still a fascinating exploration / explanation into the latest ideas / therories on how all our brains work.
I absolutely recommend this!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is well illustrated, is written in an accessible, engaging and enjoyable way and also gives concise descriptions of a scientific manner.

This book will interest, synaesthetes, non-synaesthetes who are interested in the condition and this book will also please those who want to read interesting topics in the neuro-sciences and psychology.

I really recommend this book!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book 1 Mar. 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was the second book I was looking for to aid my research on Synaesthesia.
The texture of the book alone made me fall in love with it.
Some interesting information about Synaesthesia here.
If you want to learn about it, buy it, read it, fall in love with it, learn from it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 17 Nov. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brilliant and very insightful. Gives you exactly what you need to understand how the brain works. Absolutely essential and must have.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indigo Blue is Golden 7 April 2009
By M. Seaberg - Published on
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 7 Sept. 2010
By Erika Mitchell - Published on
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Whole New World - Wow 8 May 2009
By P. Hawthorn - Published on
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars November Hangs above Me to the Left 8 Oct. 2012
By Holly E. Payne - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 1 Jan. 2012
By CSedita - Published on
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.
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