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Neuroscience. 2006 Dec;143(3):805-14. Epub 2006 Sep 25.

Variants of synesthesia interact in cognitive tasks: evidence for implicit associations and late connectivity in cross-talk theories.

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  • 1Psychology, School of Philosophy, Psychology, and language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ UK.


This study examines the interaction between two types of synesthesia: ordinal linguistic personification (OLP; the involuntary association of animate qualities such as gender/personality to linguistic units such as letters/numbers/days) and grapheme-color synesthesia (the involuntary association of colors to letters and/or numbers). By examining both variants in the same individual we aim to: (a) show that features of different synesthetic variants interact in cognitive tasks, (b) provide a cognitive model of this interaction, and (c) constrain models of the underlying neurological roots of this connectivity. Studies have shown inhibition in Stroop-type tasks for naming font colors that clash with synesthetic colors (e.g. slower naming of green font for synesthetically red letters). We show that Stroop-type slow-down occurs only when incongruent colors come from other letters with matching (but not mis-matching) gender (experiment 2). We also measure the speed of OLP gender judgments (e.g. a=female; experiment 1) and show that response times are slowed by incongruent colors from other letters with mis-matching (but not matching) genders. Our studies suggest that synesthetic variants interact and that their concurrents can become implicitly connected without mediation from inducing stimuli. We interpret these findings in light of recent developmental data showing protracted heterochronous neuronal development in humans, which continues through adolescence in parietal, frontal and perisylvian areas.

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