The Man Who Tasted Shapes, revised edition
296 pp., 6 x 9 in, 15 illus.
- Published: August 11, 2003
- Publisher: The MIT Press
In this medical detective adventure, Cytowic shows how synesthesia, or "joined sensation," illuminates a wide swath of mental life and leads to a new view of what it means to be human.
Richard Cytowic's dinner host apologized, "There aren't enough points on the chicken!" He felt flavor also as a physical shape in his hands, and the chicken had come out "too round." This offbeat comment in 1980 launched Cytowic's exploration into the oddity called synesthesia. He is one of the few world authorities on the subject. Sharing a root with anesthesia ("no sensation"), synesthesia means "joined sensation," whereby a voice, for example, is not only heard but also seen, felt, or tasted. The trait is involuntary, hereditary, and fairly common. It stayed a scientific mystery for two centuries until Cytowic's original experiments led to a neurological explanation—and to a new concept of brain organization that accentuates emotion over reason. That chicken dinner two decades ago led Cytowic to explore a deeper reality that, he argues, exists in everyone but is often just below the surface of awareness (which is why finding meaning in our lives can be elusive). In this medical detective adventure, Cytowic shows how synesthesia, far from being a mere curiosity, illuminates a wide swath of mental life and leads to a new view of what is means to be human—a view that turns upside down conventional ideas about reason, emotional knowledge, and self-understanding. This 2003 edition features a new afterword.
Bradford Books imprint
Cytowic brings all the imagination of a novelist to bear on his exploration of synesthesia.
Glyn Maxwell, Vogue (European edition)
With broad sweeps, [Cytowic] outlines a new landscape... read this book.
Jennifer Altman, NewScientist
...written on a personal level that allows the reader to explore the psychic phenomenon of synesthesia with the author.
Anthony L. Vaccarino, Contemporary Psychology
Space constraints prevent me from giving more than a mere flavour of the richness of Cytowic's thinking. With broad sweeps, he outlines anew landscape.... Read this book—and the more objective you think you are, the more open-minded you will need to be to appreciate it.
The New Scientist
Phenomena that are robust and repeatable but don't fit the 'big picture' of accepted Science are often regarded as anomalies and unfairly ignored by the establishment. Synesthesia—the mingling of senses—is one such topic. In this reprint of his classic work, Dr. Cytowic has once again revived interest in this fascinating topic.
V. S. Ramachandran, Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego