Probing the neurochemical basis of synaesthesia using psychophysics

Terhune, Devin Blair; Song, Seoho M.; Duta, Mihaela D. and Kadosh, Roi Cohen. 2014. Probing the neurochemical basis of synaesthesia using psychophysics. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 89. ISSN 1662-5161 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The neurochemical mechanisms that contribute to synaesthesia are poorly understood, but multiple models implicate serotonin and GABA in the development of this condition. Here we used psychophysical tasks to test the predictions that synaesthetes would display behavioral performance consistent with reduced GABA and elevated serotonin in primary visual cortex. Controls and synaesthetes completed the orientation-specific surround suppression (OSSS) and tilt-after effect (TAE) tasks, previously shown to relate to GABA and serotonin levels, respectively. Controls and synaesthetes did not differ in the performance parameter previously associated with GABA or in the magnitude of the TAE. However, synaesthetes did display lower contrast difference thresholds in the OSSS task than controls when no surround (NS) was present. These results are inconsistent with the hypothesized roles of GABA and serotonin in this condition, but provide preliminary evidence that synaesthetes exhibit enhanced contrast discrimination.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


disinhibition, GABA, serotonin, synaesthesia

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Psychology > Timing, Awareness, and Suggestion Lab


20 February 2014Published
5 February 2014Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Mar 2016 21:53

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 15:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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