What spatial coordinate defines color-space synesthesia?

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Abstract

Synesthesia is characterized by the association between different stimuli modalities. For example, in sequence-space synesthesia, numbers, weekdays, months, and musical tones are visualized in specific spatial locations. Although sequence-space synesthesia tends to co-occur with other types of synesthesia (e.g., grapheme-color), our knowledge about how these individuals represent space is still limited. A central issue for understanding spatial processing refers to the coordinate system used to represent spatial locations. We report on a space-color synesthete (N.W.) who vividly experiences colors in specific spatial locations. We used a task where N.W. and control subjects were required to report the location of a gray square relative to a colored square. The color of the square was task-irrelevant. Participants responded to the following trial types: (1) central trials, where one stimulus appeared on the left and the other on the right side of fixation, and (2) relative location trials, where both stimuli appeared either on the left or on the right side of fixation. Results showed that the color of the target had a strong impact on N.W.'s responses on both trial types, but not on the controls' responses. These results show that the spatial representation underlying N.W.'s synesthetic experience is automatic and sensitive to the relative location of objects.

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