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The Man Who Tasted Shapes

Foreword by Jonathan Cole


In 1980, Richard Cytowic was having dinner at a friend's house, when his host exclaimed, "Oh, dear, there aren't enough points on the chicken." With that casual comment began Cytowic's journey into the condition known as synesthesia.The ten people in one million who are synesthetes are born into a world where one sensation (such as sound) conjures up one or more others (such as taste or color). Although scientists have known about synesthesia for two hundred years, until now the condition has remained a mystery. Extensive experiments with more than forty synesthetes led Richard Cytowic to an explanation of synesthesia--and to a new conception of the organization of the mind, one that emphasized the primacy of emotion over reason.Because there were not enough points on chicken served at a dinner almost two decades ago, Cytowic came to explore a deeper reality that he believes exists in all individuals, but usually below the surface of awareness. In this medical detective adventure, he reveals the brain to be an active explorer, not just a passive receiver, and offers a new view of what it means to be human--a view that turns upside down conventional ideas about reason, emotion, and who we are.* Not for sale in the United Kingdom and Eire

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.


"...written on a personal level that allows the reader to explore the psychic phenomenon of synesthesia with the author." , Anthony L. Vaccarino, Contemporary Psychology

"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, 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