Richard E. Cytowic is best known for rediscovering synesthesia in 1980 and returning it to the scientific mainstream where it is now seen as crucial to basic theories of how the brain works. Sharing a root with anesthesia (“no sensation”), synethesia means “joined sensation,” whereby a voice, for example, is not only heard but also seen felt, or tasted. The trait is involuntary, hereditary, and fairly common. It stayed a scientific mystery for two centuries until Cytowic’s original experiments led to a neurological explanation—and to a new concept of brain organization that accentuates emotion over reason.
For more information about synesthesia and how it illuminates a wide swath of mental life and leads to a new view of what it mean to be human, check out The Man Who Tasted Shapes.