The Vanderbilt study, reported in the March 19th issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, consisted of administering a battery of perceptual tests to an adult male known as WO who experiences synesthesia. The tests go far beyond the tests of individuals with synesthesia that have previously been reported. Little is known about synesthesias causes or its prevalence. Estimates range from one in 2,000 to one in 25,000 and there is also some evidence that the condition is more common in women than in men. Nevertheless, a number of famous people including the poets Baudelaire and Rimbaud, the painters Kandinsky and Klee, the composers Lizst and Scriabin have been linked to synesthesia. In an attempt to describe what synesthesia is like, novelist and synesthete Vladimir Nabokov wrote that he saw the letter c as light blue; associated a with the look of weathered wood, and got a feeling like a sooty rag being ripped from the letter r.
The synesthete who served as the subject of the new study is a middle-aged man who reports that he has had the condition since early childhood. WO sees letters, numbers and individual words printed in black-and-white in vivid color. If the characters are printed in different colored ink, he can see that color as well, says Thomas J. Palmeri, assistant professor of psychology, who headed up the study. His collaborators ar
Contact: David F. Salisbury