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Published On May 3, 2009

CLINICAL RESEARCH

A Dance of Musical Color

Artists with a certain neurological condition put all their senses to work.

A dance of musical color is what Wassily Kandinsky aimed to portray in Three Riders in Red, Blue and Black (1911), a woodcut inspired by the artist’s neurological condition—synesthesia—in which stimuli trigger perception by the “wrong” sense, allowing the perceiver to “see” sounds or “taste” words. Now an Oxford University study has linked the condition to four regions of the genome, including two chromosomes that are associated with autism and dyslexia. The study also shows a strong hereditary component, confirming anecdotal evidence described by Vladimir Nabokov (a synesthete, as were his mother and son) in his 1951 memoir.

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