Richard Cytowic

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Richard E. Cytowic
Born (1952-12-16) December 16, 1952 (age 71)
Alma materDuke University, Wake Forest, American University
Known forSynesthesia, Neuropsychology, Nonfiction writing
AwardsMontaigne Medal 2011, Pulitzer Prize nominee, Artist Fellow, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award
Scientific career
InstitutionsGeorge Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences
WebsiteWeb site

Richard E. Cytowic is an American neurologist and author [1] who rekindled interest in synesthesia[2][3][4][5] in the 1980s and returned it to mainstream science. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times Magazine cover story[6] about James Brady, the Presidential Press Secretary shot in the brain during the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Cytowic’s writing ranges from textbooks[7] and music reviews, to his Metro Weekly "Love Doctor" essays[8] and brief medical biographies of Anton Chekhov,[9] Maurice Ravel[10] and Virginia Woolf.[11] His work is the subject of two BBC Horizon documentaries, “Orange Sherbert Kisses” (1994)[12] and “Derek Tastes of Earwax” (2014).[13]

In Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks writes:

In the 1980, Richard Cytowic made the first neurophysiological studies of synesthetic subjects... In 1989, he published a pioneering text, Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses, and this was followed by a popular exploration of the subject in 1993, The Man Who Tasted Shapes. Current techniques of functional brain imaging now give unequivocal evidence for the simultaneous activation or coactivation of two or more sensory areas of the cerebral cortex in synesthetes, just as Cytowic’s work predicted.[14]

Of Wednesday is Indigo Blue, co–authored by Cytowic and David Eagleman, Sacks said, “Their work has changed the way we think of the human brain, and [it] is a unique and indispensable guide for anyone interested in how we perceive the world.” The book won the 2011 Montaigne Medal.[15]

Cytowic is a Professor of Neurology at George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, a Mentor at the Point Foundation, and a member of the Advisory Board for Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.


Cytowic was born on December 16, 1952, in Trenton, New Jersey, to a physician father and artist mother, and grew up with an extended family of scientists and artists. His mother is ESPN's "Super Nana Marge", Tim Tebow's No. 1 fan.[16] As a child, Cytowic liked taking things apart and putting them back together to figure out how they worked.

He attended Hun School of Princeton (class of 1970),[17] graduated cum laude from Duke University, and received his M.D. from Wake Forest's Bowman Gray School of Medicine. He studied further at London's Queen Square (Institute of Neurology), and George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences before founding a private clinic, Capitol Neurology. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from American University[18] (2011).

Retired from clinical practice, Cytowic now mentors medical students at George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, writes academic and popular nonfiction, and lectures at museums and cultural institutions worldwide such as the Istanbul Biennial.[19] With installation artist Marcos Lutyens he designed an interactive project at the Los Angeles Main Museum, “A Semantic Survey of Emotions.” During his North Carolina years, he served as music critic for the Winston-Salem Journal.


  • Synesthesia (2018). Cambridge: MIT Press, Essential Knowledge Series.
  • The Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia (2014). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-199-60332-9[20]
  • Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia (with David Eagleman), Foreword by Dmitri Nabokov (2009). Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-01279-9[21]
  • The Man Who Tasted Shapes (2003). Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-53255-6[22]
  • Synesthesia: A Union of The Senses, 2nd edition (2002). Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-03296-4[23]
  • The Neurological Side of Neuropsychology (1996). Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-03231-5[24]
  • Nerve Block For Common Pain (1990). New York: Springer Verlag. ISBN 0-387-97147-5[25]
Reviews and essays

Artistic fellowships[edit]



  1. ^ "Books by Richard Cytowic". Archived from the original on 2008-09-01.
  2. ^ Cytowic, RE (2009) Wednesday is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia. (Co-authored with David Eagleman) Cambridge: MIT Press ISBN 978-0-262-01279-9
  3. ^ Cytowic, RE (2003) The Man Who Tasted Shapes Cambridge: MIT Press ISBN 978-0-262-53255-6
  4. ^ Cytowic, RE (2002).Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses (2nd ed). Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-03296-4 (1st ed 1989, Springer-Verlag.)
  5. ^ Cytowic, RE (1996) The Neurological Side of Neuropsychology Cambridge: MIT Press ISBN 978-0-262-03231-5 (pp 224-226, 235-237)
  6. ^ September 27, 1981
  7. ^ The Neurological Side of Neuropsychology(1996). Cambridge: MIT Press ISBN 978-0-262-03231-5
  8. ^ "Love Doctor essays for Metro Weekly Magazine". Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  9. ^ " Checkhov pdf". Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  10. ^ Aphasia in Maurice Ravel, Irwin Brody Award for History of Neuroscience, Duke University (1978). Available at Ravel pdf
  11. ^ Magazine, Richard E. Cytowic for Seed. "Many Minds, One Story § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM". Archived from the original on 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2017-07-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ "Orange Sherbert Kisses, 1994-1995, Horizon - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  13. ^ "BBC - Science & Nature - Horizon". Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  14. ^ Sacks, Oliver (2007). Musicophilia. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 178–179. ISBN 978-1-400-04081-0.
  15. ^ "Montaigne Medal Winners". Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  16. ^ Video on YouTube
  17. ^ Recognition: Alumni of the Year, Hun School of Princeton. Accessed March 6, 2011.
  18. ^ "Richard Cytowic's Academic CV". Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  19. ^ Trafo. "Save the Date for the 14th Istanbul Biennial: SALTWATER: A THEORY OF THOUGHT FORMS". Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  20. ^ The Oxford handbook of synesthesia. Simner, Julia., Hubbard, Edward M. (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2013. ISBN 9780199603329. OCLC 841911309.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ E., Cytowic, Richard (2009). Wednesday is indigo blue : discovering the brain of synesthesia. Eagleman, David. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262012799. OCLC 317116544.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ E., Cytowic, Richard (2003). The man who tasted shapes (MIT Press ed. with new afterword, 2003 ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262532556. OCLC 53186027.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ E., Cytowic, Richard (2002). Synesthesia : a union of the senses (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262032964. OCLC 51959282.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ E., Cytowic, Richard (1996). The neurological side of neuropsychology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262032315. OCLC 31940329.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ E., Cytowic, Richard (1990). Nerve block for common pain. New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0387971475. OCLC 20453497.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ "The Hambidge Center". Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  27. ^ "VCCA: Virginia Center for the Creative Arts -". Retrieved 6 November 2018.

External links[edit]