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Research at Rice may help explain aspects of synesthesia
Date:9/26/2007

ption.

For the first year and a half after her stroke, the patient demonstrated what is termed anti-extinction, in which she detected sensations significantly more on the impacted side when she was also stimulated on the unaffected side. The authors speculated that this may have reflected the initial stages of reorganization taking place in her brain. At that time, she also developed tactile sensations induced by sound, (sound-touch synesthesia), which may have been due to even further weakened pathways between the thalamus and cortex, a finding which was also suggested by the DTI results. The synesthesia persisted, and was still present six years following her stroke.

Regardless of the exact neural mechanisms, this phenomenon of brain-damage induced feelings of sound suggests that other forms of synesthesia, in which reportedly neurologically normal individuals feel, taste or see something qualitatively different than the actual sensory input, may be due to cross-wiring in the brain, the study's authors suggested. The results support previous studies suggesting that acquired forms of synesthesia may appear after months or years following brain damage.

The authors noted that in addition to demonstrating a previously unknown role for the VL in sensory processing, the results suggest that connections between the thalamus and other brain areas may be important for the ability of the nervous system to change in terms of sensory processing following brain damage. Our results suggest that local disruption of the thalamus causes large-scaled changes in remotely connected regions of the brain, perhaps including excitatory connections between auditory and somatosensory cortex leading to the patients synesthesia, they stated. "They added that the synesthesia may also have been caused by altered connections within the thalamus that normally help relay sensory information from the body to the brain. The authors concluded that this case study provide
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Contact: Franz Brotzen
franz.brotzen@rice.edu
713-348-6775
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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