Monthly Archives: January 2012

Time for some music – Colour My World, Petula!

This is one of the best pop tunes from it’s era, with a theme that has some resonance to a synaesthete such as myself. This song is a studio recording from before the age of music videos, so there is no clip, but for me the photo used as a visual is interesting because the beautiful Petula Clark has an uncanny resemblance to two women who I’ve known. Both of these women are unusually feminine women but paradoxically wore or wear their hair short just like Petula did in her heyday, presumably because nature thought it fit to give some very feminine women very heavy jaw-lines. A jaw of that type in combination with prominent cheek-bones would no doubt look masculine or witch-like next to long hair. Why does nature do these things? I don’t know.

New journal paper about super-recognizers and developmental prosopagnosics

Developmental prosopagnosia and super-recognition: No special role for surface
reflectance processing.
Richard Russell, Garga Chatterjee, Ken Nakayama
Neuropsychologia 50 (2012) 334– 340


Science magazine article about new “sparse representation” technique in facial-recognition software

This brief article is fully available free online, (which is great), so there’s no point me going over it as you can read it if you wish. This new technique in face recognition technology is different to the existing techniques that are based on the face as a whole. How these man-made technologies compare to natural human face recognition I’m not sure. I wonder whether the human brain actually uses a number of different approaches to face recognition?

Software could spot face-changing criminals by Jacob Aron New Scientist Issue 2847 18 January 2012 p. 18-19.

Interesting stuff from the New York Times from late last year about prosopagnosia and another condition that I’d not heard of – phonagnosia

Have We Met? Tracing Face Blindness to Its Roots by Karen Barrow New York Times December 26, 2011

this is the study mentioned in the above article:

Direct Structural Connections between Voice- and Face-Recognition Areas. Helen Blank, Alfred Anwander, and Katharina von Kriegstein Journal of Neuroscience. 7 September 2011,31(36): 12906-12915; doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.2091-11.2011

and this is the video featuring Dori Frame that goes with the article:

Faceless produced by Almudena Toral New York Times December 2011

A very interesting idea from Dr Simner but I’ve got my doubts

This is a quote from Dr Julia Simner’s thought-provoking paper in the British Journal of Psychology about defining synaesthesia:

“To avoid this circular evidence of what synaesthesia is and is not, we might instead define synaesthesia in terms of it neurological basis, and then allow ourselves to consider what types of variants this synaesthesia might then include. If indeed the condition were defined by inherited atypical cross-talk, we might find synaesthesiae in unexpected places. For example, if an inherited predisposition for neurological hyper-association manifested itself, say, in the fronto-temporal language regions that mediate semantics, lexical-forms, and syntax (e.g., see Tyler & Marslen-Wilson, 2008, for review) what would this mean? It might mean we could find ‘synaesthetic’ individuals with unusually strengthened connections in spoken language processing.”

I happened across this picture that is apparently from The Human Connectome Project, or at least from a paper by Liza Gross that was published in PLoS Biology in 2008:  I’m guessing that the coloured larger blobs represent the most connected hubs in the brain, and I’m guessing these bits would be made of white matter? I know that there is one type of synaesthesia that is associated with some kind of functional enhancement of white matter, and in general, synaesthesia is thought to be due to hyperconnectivity in the brain, which I guess might mean that it operates the most in regions of the brain that are the most connected? Well, looking at the picture with the red and pink blobs, it seems as though the parts of the brain that are the most connected are towards the rear of the brain, maybe the parietal, occipital and part of the temporal lobes, with most of the frontal lobe and Broca’s area (important in language processing)  left pretty much out of the loop. So I’ve got to wonder how realistic is Dr Simner’s theoretical idea of a type of person who is especially articulate due to a hidden type of synaesthesia based in the “fronto-temporal language regions”. I certainly do think it is probable that there are non-obvious and undiscovered types of synaesthesia linking brain functions that researchers haven’t already known to be hyperconnected, but I suspect that researchers will also find that synaesthesia is more likely in some regions of the brain than others. I’ve long ago noticed that most types of synaesthesia that are known to science (and to me) involve the sense of sight in one way or another (scenes, colours, shapes, faces, visual-spatial landscapes etc), and where is vision processed in the brain? At the rear, where so many of those red blobs are found.

Simner, J. (2012), Defining synaesthesia. British Journal of Psychology, 103: 1–15. doi: 10.1348/000712610X528305  Article first published online: 11 MAR 2011 DOI: 10.1348/000712610X528305

Gross L (2008) From Structure to Function: Mapping the Connection Matrix of the Human Brain. PLoS Biol 6(7): e164. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060164

Human Connectome Project

Free full-text journal papers about defining and redefining synaesthesia!

Thank you British Journal of Psychology. I find this stuff interesting. I hope my horribly neglected readers will also find the February 2012 issue interesting. It has Dr Julia Simner’s most interesting paper and two papers in response to it, one by the leading US synesthesia researcher David Eagleman and and another by synaesthesia researchers Cohen Kadosh and Terhune, plus Simner’s response to the responses. So if you still think synaesthesia is just crossed senses, do take a look.

For those of us with an interest in face recognition as well as synaesthesia, there is also a free paper titled “Integration of faces and voices, but not faces and names, in person recognition”. Happy reading!

Study still going

(edit April 2012 – as far as I know this study ended in January 2012)

It looks like the super-recognizer study held at the Science Museum in London is still going, but scheduled to wind up soon. I believe the researchers from the University of East London hope to find study participants who are superrecognizers, so if you are in that area and suspect that you might be one, you might want to make inquiries.{BD494D12-C6FB-4A57-8A2B-28B1567C3702}

Posts that have comments about other people’s experiences or are about other people’s experiences

Involuntary Method of Loci Memorization (IMLM) – what the heck is that?

Are the flashbacks that are an element of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a troublesome variety of synaesthesia and/or related to the Tetris effect?

Synaesthesia linking concepts with scenes – maybe not so hard to explain, and maybe not really so strange?

Another case of synaesthesia linking scenes and concepts, from Austin in Texas?

Invitation for comments

A Most Peculiar Experience