Cytowic, Richard E(dmund) 1952-
CYTOWIC, Richard E(dmund) 1952-
Born December 16, 1952, in Trenton, NJ; son of Edmund R. (a physician) and Margaret A. (an artist; maiden name, Ganyo) Cytowic. Education: Duke University, B.A., 1973; Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University, M.D., 1977; studied at National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, University of London, 1976. Politics: Republican. Religion: "Roman Catholic/Soto Zen."
Home—4720 Blagden Terrace NW, Washington, DC. Agent—Sidney Kramer, 20 Bluewater Hill, Westport, CT 06880. E-mail—[email protected].
Neurologist, author, lecturer. North Carolina Baptist Hospital/Bowman Gray, Winston-Salem, intern in medicine, ophthalmology, and neurology, 1977-78, George Washington University, Washington, DC, chief resident in neurology, 1980-81; Washington Hospital Center, attending physician, 1981; Capitol Neurology, Washington, DC, physician and president, 1981—. Med-Scene Teleconferences, medical adviser, 1984—; Capitol Hill Hospital, chief of neurology section, 1985-88; member of staff, Hadley Hospital and Providence Hospital. Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, Rabum Gap, GA, resident fellow, 1988, 1989, 1990; Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, resident, 1991, 1992; guest on television and radio programs, including Good Morning America, All Things Considered, 60 Minutes, and Voice of America.
Royal Society of Medicine (fellow), American Academy of Neurology (senior fellow), American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, Delta Phi Alpha.
Irwin A. Brody Award, 1978; Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1982, for the newspaper article "The Long Ordeal of James Brady."
Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1989, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Nerve Block for Common Pains: A Manual for Primary Practitioners, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1990.
The Man Who Tasted Shapes: A Bizarre Medical Mystery Offers Revolutionary Insights into Emotions, Reasoning, and Consciousness, J. P. Tarcher (New York, NY), 1993, revised edition, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
The Neurological Side of Neuropsychology: Understanding and Assessing Higher Brain Functions, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
Work represented in books by others, including Nonfocal Brain Injury: Dementia and Trauma, edited by Harry A. Whittaker, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1987; Synaesthesia: Classic and Contemporary Readings, edited by S. Baron-Cohen and J. E. Harrison, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1997; and Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, edited by G. Adelman and B. H. Smith, Elsevier (New York, NY), 2003. Contributor to medical journals, including Sciences, Psyche, and Journal of Consciousness Studies. Reviewer for periodicals, including New Scientist, Washington Post Book World, American Journal of Psychology, and Lamba Literary Report. Contributor of articles to periodicals and newspapers, including G (magazine), New York Times (magazine), Der Spiegel, Sky, Café, and Cerebrum. Former member of editorial boards of Brain and Language, Brain and Cognition, and the Medical Society of DC.
Neurologist Richard E. Cytowic's Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses was the first book in English that explores a sensory condition that tends to run in families, experienced by approximately one in 25,000 synesthetes, more of whom are women. The word synesthesia comes from the same root as anesthesia, which means "no sensation." Synesthesia means "joined sensation," or the experiencing of two or more sensations at the same time.
Mike J. Dixon reviewed the second edition in Quarterly Review of Biology, noting that the subject "is currently undergoing a rather spectacular renaissance, with articles appearing in a host of top-tier journals. The initial interest of many of the researchers who conduct these studies was sparked by the first edition of Cytowic's volume." In his revised edition, Cytowic includes much of the newer research and a history of the study of synesthesia.
In The Man Who Tasted Shapes: A Bizarre Medical Mystery Offers Revolutionary Insights into Emotions, Reasoning, and Consciousness, Cytowic notes that in 1979, he met a man who tasted shapes and a woman who smelled and heard colors. He writes of his investigations and of his discovery of famous people who were synesthetes, including Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita) who wrote that "the long a of the English alphabet has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French a evokes polished ebony.… Dull green, combined somehow with violet, is the best I can do for w…. B has the tone called burnt sienna by painters, m is a fold of pink flannel." Laurence A. Marschall noted in the Sciences that Nabokov "was not speaking metaphorically. Sounds were not like colors to him; they were colors. Hearing and sight produced similar, often indistinguishable, reactions in his mind."
In his book, Cytowic quotes Michael O. Watson as saying, "I thought everybody felt shapes when they ate. If there's no shape, there's no flavor." "Sensation suffused [Watson's] body," noted Marschall, "adding an encompassing awareness of weight, temperature, and texture to stimuli the rest of us would localize in the mouth."
Cytowic contends that all humans are to some degree synesthetic, particularly children, and that it is lost around the time of puberty. He said in an Health Report interview with Robin Hughes that the action comes from the limbic system, the level below the cortex. "The limbic system has to deal with attention and memory and emotion and the relevance that we assign to things that happen to us, things that are either important or not." said Cytowic. "And the limbic system is fundamentally mammalian; it's the primary characteristics of a mammalian brain. And this is why I called synesthetes cognitive fossils a number of years ago, because they represent not only an earlier way of perceiving, but also fundamentally a very mammalian way of perceiving.… synesthesias are linked to not just people but to a broader collection of beings."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Cytowic, Richard E., The Man Who Tasted Shapes: A Bizarre Medical Mystery Offers Revolutionary Insights into Emotions, Reasoning, and Consciousness, J. P. Tarcher (New York, NY), 1993, revised edition, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1993, review of The Man Who Tasted Shapes: A Bizarre Medical Mystery Offers Revolutionary Insights into Emotions, Reasoning, and Consciousness, p. 67.
Quarterly Review of Biology, June, 1997, Anthony Bolton, review of The Neurological Side of Neuropsychology: Understanding and Assessing Higher Brain Functions, p. 228; December, 2003, Mike J. Dixon, review of Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses, p. 507.
Sciences, November-December, 1993, Laurence A. Marschall, review of The Man Who Tasted Shapes, p. 44.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation,http://www.abc.net.au/ (July 8, 1996), Robin Hughes, Health Report interview with Cytowic.
Psyche Online,http://psyche.cs.monash.edu.au/ (July, 1997), John A. Allen, review of The Neurological Side of Neuropsychology.
Richard Cytowic Home Page,http://cytowic.net (April 22, 2004).*