Synaesthetes, who associate letters and digits with particular colours, do so only after their processing of these graphemes is complete, an Australian team report in this week’s Nature (Vol. 410, No. 6828, 29 Mar 2001). Jason B. Mattingley of the University of Melbourne, Victoria, and colleagues presented 15 synaesthetes —"each of whom experiences idiosyncratic but highly consistent colours for letters and digits" — with graphemes that were quickly masked. The subjects did not experience their usual synaesthesia.
These shed light on an enduring problem of perceptual neuroscience: that of whether awareness is needed to bind the visual features of an object together. Lynn Robertson of the University of California, Berkeley, discusses this in an accompanying News and Views article.
Jason B. Mattingley
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