Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia

Front Cover
MIT Press, 2009 - Medical - 309 pages
A person with synesthesia might feel the flavor of food on her fingertips, sense the letter J as shimmering magenta or the number 5 as emerald green, hear and taste her husband's voice as buttery golden brown. Synesthetes rarely talk about their peculiar sensory gift—believing either that everyone else senses the world exactly as they do, or that no one else does. Yet synesthesia occurs in one in twenty people, and is even more common among artists. One famous synesthete was novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who insisted as a toddler that the colors on his wooden alphabet blocks were "all wrong." His mother understood exactly what he meant because she, too, had synesthesia. Nabokov's son Dmitri, who recounts this tale in the afterword to this book, is also a synesthete—further illustrating how synesthesia runs in families.

In Wednesday Is Indigo Blue, pioneering researcher Richard Cytowic and distinguished neuroscientist David Eagleman explain the neuroscience and genetics behind synesthesia’s multisensory experiences. Because synesthesia contradicted existing theory, Cytowic spent twenty years persuading colleagues that it was a real—and important—brain phenomenon rather than a mere curiosity. Today scientists in fifteen countries are exploring synesthesia and how it is changing the traditional view of how the brain works.

Cytowic and Eagleman argue that perception is already multisensory, though for most of us its multiple dimensions exist beyond the reach of consciousness. Reality, they point out, is more subjective than most people realize. No mere curiosity, synesthesia is a window on the mind and brain, highlighting the amazing differences in the way people see the world.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Meredy - LibraryThing

Six-word review: Why some brains multiply sensory experience. Extended review: In the decades since I first learned that my somewhat unusual way of perceiving written words had a name, synesthesia has ... Read full review

Wednesday is indigo blue: discovering the brain of synesthesia

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

So what is synesthesia? Researcher Cytowic (The Man Who Tasted Shapes) and neuroscientist Eagleman (Ctr. for Synesthesia Research, Baylor Coll. of Medicine) offer an answer: synesthesia is a response ... Read full review


1 What Color Is Tuesday?
2 A Kaleidoscopic World
3 Dont It Make My Brown Is Blue?
4 See with Your Ears
5 November Hangs above Me to the Left
6 A Matter of Taste
7 Auras Orgasms and Nervous Peaches
8 Metaphor Art and Creativity
9 Inside a Synesthetes Brain
10 Questions Ahead

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

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 Sensesand The Man Who Tasted Shapes,both published by the MIT Press.

David Eagleman received undergraduate degrees in British and American literature from Rice University in 1993. He received a PhD in neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in 1998, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute. He is currently a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He has written several nonfiction books including Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Unconscious Brain, Live-Wired: The Dynamically Reorganizing Brain, and Cognitive Neuroscience. He has also written a work of fiction entitled Sum: Tales from the Afterlives. His articles have appeared in numerous publications including Science, Nature, the New York Times, Discover Magazine, Slate, Wired, and New Scientist.

Bibliographic information