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Fifteen percent of the current sample has a ﬁrst-degree family history of dyslexia, autism, or attention-deﬁcit disorder. 2 1. 1 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS In examining reports of synesthesia throughout the literature, it is astonishing to ﬁnd the phenomenon unexamined by neurologists even though, as I indicated in the preface, synesthesia has been known to medicine for about 300 years. After its last heyday, circa 1860 to 1930, it was forgotten, remaining unexplained not for lack of trying, but simply because psychology and neurology were premature sciences at the time.
E. ‘‘seeing’’ every letter of the alphabet and every number in a speciﬁc color . . My colors are not the same as his. I too never talked about it, not out of shyness but because I always thought that all people were like that. Only after reading Nabokov’s description of his synesthesia did I realize that this was rather unusual . . I enjoy it very much and would be hard put if these colors would suddenly vanish. I don’t think they will; I am 61 now and had it all my life. (11/02/86) JM is facile in learning languages and has varying ﬂuency in Japanese, Italian, French, and Spanish.
We will look at some of these in later chapters. For example, close investigation of visual mechanisms reveals that it is our brains that construct much of what we take to be objective visual data. Color, for instance, is not due to the wavelength of light reﬂecting off the surface, as is so often said, nor is it related to any obvious physical quality at a given point on an object. What we see when we look at our surroundings is largely our own invention. Consider the detachment of shape. We have no difﬁculty recognizing a real tree from an artist’s sketch of the same shape or a photograph of a tree despite the enormously different images that each of these three examples casts on the retina.