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J Neurosci. 2012 May 30;32(22):7614-21. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5401-11.2012.

Intrinsic network connectivity reflects consistency of synesthetic experiences.

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Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Research Centre Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany.


Studying cognitive processes underlying synesthesia, a condition in which stimulation of one sensory modality automatically leads to abnormal additional sensory perception, allows insights into the neural mechanisms of normal and abnormal cross-modal sensory processing. Consistent with the notion that synesthesia results from hyperconnectivity, functional connectivity analysis (adopting independent component analysis and seed-based correlation analysis) of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data of 12 grapheme-color synesthetes and 12 nonsynesthetic control subjects revealed, in addition to increased intranetwork connectivity, both a global and a specific (medial and lateral visual networks to a right frontoparietal network) increase of intrinsic internetwork connectivity in grapheme-color synesthesia. Moreover, this increased intrinsic network connectivity reflected the strength of synesthetic experiences. These findings constitute the first direct evidence of increased functional network connectivity in synesthesia. In addition to this significant contribution to the understanding of the neural mechanisms of synesthesia, our results have important general implications. In combination with data derived from clinical populations, our data strongly suggest that altered differences in intrinsic network connectivity are directly related to the phenomenology of human experiences.

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