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 a spouse’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.
In Wednesday Is Indigo Blue, pioneering researcher Richard Cytowic and distinguished neuroscientist David Eagleman explain the neuroscience and genetics behind synesthesia's multisensory experiences. 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.
"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."
"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."
"A fascinating survey of the enormous variety and creativity of the synesthetic mind."
—Daniel Tammet, synesthete and author of Born on a Blue Day
"Wednesday is Indigo Blue adds a new and rich philosophical discussion and a variety of cognitive neuroscience experiments to the topic of synesthesia. Cytowic and Eagleman make a convincing case that research on synesthesia has and will significantly contribute to our understanding of the brain's neural networks."
—Harry A. Whitaker, Department of Psychology, Northern Michigan University
About the Authors
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.