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"Sometimes described as a blending of perceptions, synesthesia occurs when one of the five senses is aroused, yet two respond."



How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds

By Patricia Lynne Duffy

Foreword by Dr. Peter Grossenbacher,
National Institute of Mental Health


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"Nature, so endlessly creative, has managed things so that each of us, hosts of synesthesia or not, perceives a slightly different world... a world colored by our one-of-a-kind pattern of neurons and experiences" -- Patricia Lynne Duffy


"This book is a delight. Synesthesia is usually called a medical (specifically a neurological) condition, but Duffy's account persuades me that we should regard gift of enriched perception...She is fortunate enough to be both a journalist and a synesthete, with the gift for communicating clearly about her other gift...Her account is not only moving and evocative, but historical and scientific."

  --Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University,
    Department of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry

A Black, E White, I Red, U Green, O Blue: vowels
One day I will crack your nascent origins
A, hairy corset of clacking black flies...
E, whiteness of vapors and tents...
I, purples, spit blood, laughter of beautiful lips...
U, cycles, divine vibrations of green seas...

In  "Voyelles,"  poet Arthur Rimbaud attempts to give words to the intricate processes of mind and personal perception.  In doing so, he gives us all a glimpse into the world of synesthesia, a fascinating and mysterious neurological condition that has divided scientists and inspired research for centuries.

Synesthesia is defined as the ability of an individual to respond simultaneously to stimuli with multiple senses.  For example, a synesthete might (as Rimbaud did) associate letters with colors, connect tastes with specific shapes, or even perceive time--a day, a week, a year--as a pattern of linear images, existing in a four-dimensional way.  In BLUE CATS AND CHARTREUSE KITTENS: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds, journalist and synesthete Patricia Lynne Duffy offers a rare and entertaining glance into the minds of the individuals who experience this condition.

Drawing both on her own experiences as a synesthete and those of brilliant synesthetes past and present, such as poet Baudelaire, painter David Hockney, composer Franz Liszt, Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, and writer Vladimir Nabokov, Duffy develops an engaging and accurate analysis of the synesthetic mind.  By combining scientific data such as the different variations of synesthesia, its genetic components, and the ongoing research devoted to further investigation of its processes and effects with more anecdotal accounts, she creates an informative, entertaining, and overwhelmingly human work.

The 1990's were called the "decade of the brain".  With each passing year and each new research study, scientists learn more and more about synesthesia and what it teaches us about human perception.  BLUE CATS AND CHARTREUSE KITTENS is an important part of these advances.  Duffy's book explains synesthesia in clear, engaging prose, dispelling ideas that this condition is somehow "made-up" or "strange," and attempting to add humor, personality, and understanding to those who live with this unique way of perceiving the world.

How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds
By Patricia Lynne Duffy
W.H. Freeman/Times Books/Henry Holt &Co.

Publication Date: November 7, 2001
ISBN: 0-7167-4088-5

For further information, please contact Pat Duffy at 

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