Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Second known case of patient developing synesthesia after brain injury

Date:
July 30, 2013
Source:
St. Michael's Hospital
Summary:
A Toronto man is only the second known person to have acquired synesthesia as a result of a brain injury, in this case a stroke. About nine months after suffering a stroke, the patient noticed that words written in a certain shade of blue evoked a strong feeling of disgust. Yellow was only slightly better. Raspberries, which he never used to eat very often, now tasted like blue -- and blue tasted like raspberries.

A Toronto man is only the second known person to have acquired synesthesia as a result of a brain injury, in this case a stroke.

Related Articles


About nine months after suffering a stroke, the patient noticed that words written in a certain shade of blue evoked a strong feeling of disgust. Yellow was only slightly better. Raspberries, which he never used to eat very often, now tasted like blue -- and blue tasted like raspberries.

High-pitched brass instruments -- specifically the brass theme from James Bond movies -- elicited feelings of ecstasy and light blue flashes in his peripheral vision and caused large parts of his brain to light up on an MRI. Music played by a euphonium, a tenor-pitched brass instrument, shut down those sensations.

The patient said he was initially frightened by the mixed messages his brain was sending him and the conflicting senses he was experiencing. He was so worried that something was seriously wrong with him that he raised it with a nurse only as he was leaving an appointment at St. Michael's Hospital in downtown Toronto.

Physicians and researchers immediately recognized he had synesthesia, a neurological condition in which people experience more than one sense at the same time. They may "see" words or numbers as colours, hear sounds in response to smells or feel something in response to sight.

Most synesthetes are born with the condition, and include some of the world's most famous authors and artists, including author Vladimir Nabakov, composer Franz Liszt, painter Vasily Kandinsky and singer-songwriter Billy Joel.

The Toronto patient is only the second known person to have acquired synesthesia as a result of a brain injury, in this case a stroke. His case was described in the August issue of the journal Neurology by Dr. Tom Schweizer, a neuroscientist and director of the Neuroscience Research Program at St. Michael's Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.

Dr. Schweizer examined the patient's brain activity in a functional MRI and compared it to six men of similar age (45) and education (18 years) as each listened to the James Bond Theme and a euphonium solo.

When the James Bond Theme was played, large areas of the patient's brain lit up including the thalamus (the brain's information switchboard), the hippocampus (which deals with memory and spatial navigation) and the auditory cortex (which processes sound).

"The areas of the brain that lit up when he heard the James Bond Theme are completely different from the areas we would expect to see light up when people listen to music," Dr. Schweizer said. "Huge areas on both sides of the brain were activated that were not activated when he listened to other music or other auditory stimuli and were not activated in the control group."

The patient and members of the control group also viewed 10-second blocks of words presented in black (which elicits no emotional response in the patient), yellow (mild disgust response) and blue (intense disgust response).

Reading blue letters produced extensive activity in the parts of the patient's brain responsible for sensory information and processing emotional stimuli and similar but less intense responses for yellow letters. Control groups showed no heightened brain activity in response to the different coloured letters.

Dr. Schweizer said the fact that the patient had very targeted and specific responses to certain stimuli -- and that these responses were not experienced by the control group -- suggests that his synesthesia was caused as his brain tried to repair itself after his stroke and got cross-wired.

The patient's stroke occurred in the thalamus, the brain's central relay station. That's the same part of the brain affected by the only other reported case of acquired synesthesia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by St. Michael's Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

St. Michael's Hospital. "Second known case of patient developing synesthesia after brain injury." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730101744.htm>.
St. Michael's Hospital. (2013, July 30). Second known case of patient developing synesthesia after brain injury. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730101744.htm
St. Michael's Hospital. "Second known case of patient developing synesthesia after brain injury." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730101744.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 3, 2015) Super Bowl champions Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate their brains, post-mortem, to scientific research into repetitive brain trauma. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Newsy (Mar. 3, 2015) Researchers found an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer&apos;s disease in the brains of 20-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins