Seeing mathematics: Perceptual experience and brain activity in acquired synesthesia

Berit Brogaard, Simo Vanni, Juha Silvanto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We studied the patient JP who has exceptional abilities to draw complex geometrical images by hand and a form of acquired synesthesia for mathematical formulas and objects, which he perceives as geometrical figures. JP sees all smooth curvatures as discrete lines, similarly regardless of scale. We carried out two preliminary investigations to establish the perceptual nature of synesthetic experience and to investigate the neural basis of this phenomenon. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, image-inducing formulas produced larger fMRI responses than non-image inducing formulas in the left temporal, parietal and frontal lobes. Thus our main finding is that the activation associated with his experience of complex geometrical images emerging from mathematical formulas is restricted to the left hemisphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-575
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Acquired synesthesia
  • Left-hemisphere activation
  • Visual imagery; Mathematical
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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