Synaesthesia: The Strangest Thing

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - Medical - 277 pages
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Synaesthesia is a confusion of the senses, whereby stimulation of one sense triggers stimulation in a completely different sensory modality. A synaesthete might claim to be able to hear colours, taste shapes, describe the colour, shape, and flavour of someone's voice, or music, the sound ofwhich looks like 'shards of glass'. Throughout history, many notable artists and writers have claimed to suffer from synaesthesia, including, Arthur Rimbaud, Wassily Kandinsky, Vladimir Nabakov, and David Hockney. The condition remains as controversial now as when first brought to the public eyemany years ago - one notable scientist dismissing it as mere 'romantic neurology.' In Synaesthesia: the strangest thing, a world authority on synaesthesia takes us on a fascinating tour of this mysterious condition, looking at historical incidences of synaesthesia, unraveling the theories for thecondition, and additionally, examining the claims to synaesthesia of the likes of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and others. The result is an exciting, yet scientific account of an incredible condition - one that will tell us of a world rich with the most unbelievable sensory experiences. From theforeword by Simon Baron-Cohen, University of Cambridge '...Aside from inspiring fellow researchers, this book will do much to educate the general public about the important but often overlooked point that we do not all experience this universe in the same way. For the most part, synaesthetes wouldnot wish to be free of their synaesthesia and if anything feel somewhat sorry for the rest of us as we go about our unisensual existence. My guess is that John Harrison's valuable book will ring a colourful bell for many people who until now did not realize that their experience had a name, and whowill now be able to identify themselves with like-minded others. For all these reasons, this is quite a book.'
 

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Contents

Confessions of a physicalist
1
Renaissance
25
Synaesthete extraordinaire?
55
The closet door opens
85
When is synaesthesia not synaesthesia? When it is a metaphor
115
Through a cloudy lens
141
It cant be genetic can it?
177
Pathology and theory
199
From romantic neurology to the ISA
223
Glossary
249
Further reading
257
Index
263
Copyright

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About the author (2001)


John Harrison has held research posts at the University of London and the University of Cambridge. He has authored or co-authored more than 30 scientific articles, and is the editor, with Simon Baron-Cohen, of 'Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings', and most recently 'Cognitive dysfunction in brain disorders'.

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