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After stroke, man says James Bond 007 theme makes him ecstatic

July 31, 2013 at 9:35 PM   |   Comments

TORONTO, July 31 (UPI) -- A Toronto man who suffered a stroke months ago has been left with jumbled senses that trigger ecstasy when he hears the James Bond "007" theme, his doctor says.

The man has the neurological condition synesthesia in which two or more unrelated senses merge, his physician, Dr. Tom Schweizer of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said.

Schweizer said people with synesthesia experience more than one sense at the same time. They might "see" words or numbers as colors, hear sounds in response to smells or feel something in response to sight.

Nine months after the stroke, the man, who doesn't want to reveal his name, told his nurse and then his doctors that words written in a certain shade of blue evoked a strong feeling of disgust, yellow was not much better, while raspberries made him see blue, while blue brought on a taste of raspberries, Schweizer said.

The Toronto patient is only the second known person to have acquired synesthesia as a result of a brain injury, or stroke, but most synesthetes are born with the condition including: author Vladimir Nabakov, composer Franz Liszt, painter Vasily Kandinsky and singer-songwriter Billy Joel, Schweizer said.

Schweizer said he examined the patient's brain activity in a functional MRI and compared it to six men of similar age -- 45 -- and education -- 18 years -- as each listened to the James Bond theme and a euphonium solo.

The patient said the James Bond movie theme elicited feelings of ecstasy and light blue flashes -- he could "see the music" as the color blue.

During the James Bond theme music, large areas of the patient's brain lit up including the thalamus, or the brain's information switchboard; the hippocampus, which deals with memory and spatial navigation; and the auditory cortex, which processes sound.

"The areas of the brain that lit up when he heard the James Bond theme are completely different from the areas we would expect to see light up when people listen to music," Schweizer said.

"Huge areas on both sides of the brain were activated that were not activated when he listened to other music or other auditory stimuli and were not activated in the control group."

The case study is scheduled to be published in the August issue of the journal Neurology.

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