The Man Who Tasted Shapes

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MIT Press, 2003 - Medical - 274 pages
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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.

 

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User Review  - NLytle - LibraryThing

I had previously bought and then culled this book, thinking I'd never have time to read it. When I found I had purchased another copy, I decided I should read it. I've always been curious about how ... Read full review

THE MAN WHO TASTED SHAPES

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

When a curious-minded neurologist meets a neurological curiosity—in this case, a neighbor who experiences tastes as physical shapes—the result, at least here, is a mixed bag: a fascinating ... Read full review

Contents

February 10 1980 Not Enough Points on the Chicken
3
The World Turned Inside Out
6
1957Down in the Basement The Making of a Neurologist
9
How the Brain Works The Standard View
18
Winters 1977 and 1978 There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Eyes
26
Direct Experience Technology and Inner Knowledge
36
March 25 1980 Blinding Red Jaggers
46
Down in the Basement The History of Synesthesia
51
The Implications of Synesthesia
163
October 5 1982 The Reverend and Martinis
172
ESSAYS ON THE PRIMACY OF EMOTION
183
The Anthropic Principle
186
Free Lunch and Imagination
189
Consciousness Is a Type of Emotion
194
The Limits of Artificial Intelligence
197
Different Kinds of Knowledge
202

April 10 1980 Taste This
64
Diagnosing Synesthesia
73
April 25 1980 Where Is the Link?
80
Painting the Ceiling
89
Summary 1980 Bringing Things to a Close
99
September 1983 Bizarre Medical Oddity Affects Millions
111
Form Constants and Explaining Ineffable Experiences
118
Altered States of Consciousness
127
May 21 1981 Taking Drugs
138
June 29 1981 Bride of Frankenstein Revisited
144
How the Brain Works The New View
153
The Experience of Metaphor
206
Emotion Has a Logic of Its Own
211
Other Peoples Experience
216
The Depth at Which We Really Live
218
Reason Is the Endless Paperwork of the Mind
222
Science and Spirituality
225
Afterword
231
Noted
257
Suggested Reading
268
Index
271
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About the author (2003)

Richard E. Cytowic, M.D., MFA, a pioneering researcher in synesthesia, is Professor of Neurology at George Washington University. He is the author of Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses, The Man Who Tasted Shapes, The Neurological Side of Neuropsychology and (with David M. Eagleman) the Montaigne Medal--winner W ednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia, all published by the MIT Press.

Jonathan Cole, D.M., F.R.C.P., is Consultant in Clinical Neurophysiology, Poole Hospital, and at Salisbury Hospital (with its Spinal Centre), a Professor at Bournemouth University and a visiting Senior Lecturer, Southampton University.

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