THE MAN WHO TASTED SHAPES by Richard E. Cytowic

THE MAN WHO TASTED SHAPES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 When a curious-minded neurologist meets a neurological curiosity--in this case, a neighbor who experiences tastes as physical shapes--the result, at least here, is a mixed bag: a fascinating scientific exploration of that rare sensory linkage and overlapping called synesthesia plus less interesting ponderings on the nature of the human mind. Washington, D.C., neurologist Cytowic was so intrigued to learn that his neighbor ``Michael'' possessed synesthesia--a trait found in only ten people per million--that he enlisted him in a research project to explore this mysterious phenomenon. Here, Cytowic divides his report on synesthesia into two sections. The first, ``A Medical Mystery Tale,'' is an account of his research and medical findings. Michael, the author tells us, cooperated in countless tedious tests and eventually even agreed to an angiogram to determine the pattern of blood flow in his brain. From this research, Cytowic concluded that synesthesia is localized in the limbic system of the brain's left hemisphere-- and that it's a normal brain function that's always existed in everyone but has been lost from conscious awareness in all but a few individuals. Apparently solving the mystery of synesthesia, Cytowic created a new conception of the organization of the mind- -one that places greater importance on the limbic system and thus on the primacy of emotion over reason. While the cortex analyzes what's going on in the world, he contends, the limbic system gives value to events. In the second part of the text, ``Essays on The Primacy of Emotion,'' the author looks at the implications of his findings. In pieces that discuss imagination, objectivity and subjectivity, consciousness, reason, and spirituality, he would have us understand that behind the rational mind is another irrational, emotional one that's really in charge. An absorbing tale of medical detection coupled with less- than-gripping philosophical musings. (Photographs, line drawings- -not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87477-738-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Tarcher/Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993




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