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Hardcover | $63.00 Text | £43.95 | ISBN: 9780262032964 | 424 pp. | 7 x 10 in | 103 illus.| May 2002

Of Related Interest

Synesthesia, second edition

A Union of the Senses


For decades, scientists who heard about synesthesia hearing colors, tasting words, seeing colored pain just shrugged their shoulders or rolled their eyes. Now, as irrefutable evidence mounts that some healthy brains really do this, we are forced to ask how this squares with some cherished conceptions of neuroscience. These include binding, modularity, functionalism, blindsight, and consciousness. The good news is that when old theoretical structures fall, new light may flood in. Far from a mere curiosity, synesthesia illuminates a wide swath of mental life.

In this classic text, Richard Cytowic quickly disposes of earlier criticisms that the phenomenon cannot be "real," demonstrating that it is indeed brain-based. Following a historical introduction, he lays out the phenomenology of synesthesia in detail and gives criteria for clinical diagnosis and an objective "test of genuineness." He reviews theories and experimental procedures to localize the plausible level of the neuraxis at which synesthesia operates. In a discussion of brain development and neural plasticity, he addresses the possible ubiquity of neonatal synesthesia, the construction of metaphor, and whether everyone is unconsciously synesthetic. In the closing chapters, Cytowic considers synesthetes’ personalities, the apparent frequency of the trait among artists, and the subjective and illusory nature of what we take to be objective reality, particularly in the visual realm.

The second edition has been extensively revised, reflecting the recent flood of interest in synesthesia and new knowledge of human brain function and development. More than two-thirds of the material is new.


"Platek, Keenan, and Shackelford are leaders of the new generation of social and evolutionary neuroscientists. They have assembled a valuable collection of papers which integrate this blossoming field. Their book should be on the desk of any serious student of cognition and the brain who wants a thorough review of the empirical literature seen through a Darwinian lens."--Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of Cambridge

"This new edition brings the reader interested in synaesthesia rapidly up to date with the scholarly and scientific debates in this field, and will stand as the new textbook on this unusual condition."--Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, University of Cambridge

"In 1989, the first edition of Synesthesia rekindled discussion, which had died down somewhat since the 'synesthesia euphoria' of the 1920s. This new, revised edition explores the many theories that have emerged in the last ten years. No one who is seriously interested in synesthesia can afford to ignore this book."--Joerg Jewanski, Conservatory Muenster, GermanyPlease note: Let's try this once more! Please substitute an "o" with an umlaut for "oe" in "Joerg," and "u" with an umlaut for the "ue" in "Muenster." Note the change in affiliation. Endorser gives permission to excerpt from quote.