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Neuron. 2005 Mar 24;45(6):975-85.

Individual differences among grapheme-color synesthetes: brain-behavior correlations.

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Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Systems Neurobiology Laboratory - B, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Grapheme-color synesthetes experience specific colors associated with specific number or letter characters. To determine the neural locus of this condition, we compared behavioral and fMRI responses in six grapheme-color synesthetes to control subjects. In our behavioral experiments, we found that a subject's synesthetic experience can aid in texture segregation (experiment 1) and reduce the effects of crowding (experiment 2). For synesthetes, graphemes produced larger fMRI responses in color-selective area human V4 than for control subjects (experiment 3). Importantly, we found a correlation within subjects between the behavioral and fMRI results; subjects with better performance on the behavioral experiments showed larger fMRI responses in early retinotopic visual areas (V1, V2, V3, and hV4). These results suggest that grapheme-color synesthesia is the result of cross-activation between grapheme-selective and color-selective brain areas. The correlation between the behavioral and fMRI results suggests that grapheme-color synesthetes may constitute a heterogeneous group.

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