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St. Michael's reports second known case of patient developing synesthesia after brain injury
Date:7/30/2013

TORONTO, July 30, 2013-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 instrumentsspecifically the brass theme from James Bond movieselicited 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 Th
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Contact: Leslie Shepherd
shepherdl@smh.ca
416-864-6094
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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