Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 198, Issue 2–3, pp 261–272 | Cite as

Prevalence, characteristics and a neurocognitive model of mirror-touch synaesthesia

  • Michael J. BanissyEmail author
  • Roi Cohen Kadosh
  • Gerrit W. Maus
  • Vincent Walsh
  • Jamie Ward
Research Article


In so-called ‘mirror-touch synaesthesia’, observing touch to another person induces a subjective tactile sensation on the synaesthete’s own body. It has been suggested that this type of synaesthesia depends on increased activity in neural systems activated when observing touch to others. Here we report the first study on the prevalence of this variant of synaesthesia. Our findings indicate that this type of synaesthesia is just as common, if not more common than some of the more frequently studied varieties of synaesthesia such as grapheme-colour synaesthesia. Additionally, we examine behavioural correlates associated with the condition. In a second experiment, we show that synaesthetic experiences are not related to somatotopic cueing—a flash of light on an observed body part does not elicit the behavioural or subjective characteristics of synaesthesia. Finally, we propose a neurocognitive model to account for these characteristics and discuss the implications of our findings for general theories of synaesthesia.


Synaesthesia Crossmodal processing Somatosensory processing Self Body representation 



This research was supported by an ESRC studentship to MJB and an ESRC project grant to JW. The work was partly supported by a MRC project grant to VW. We would like to thank Sian Fitzpatrick, Clare Jonas, and Flor Kusnir for assistance with the research.

Supplementary material

221_2009_1810_MOESM1_ESM.doc (56 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 56 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Banissy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roi Cohen Kadosh
    • 1
  • Gerrit W. Maus
    • 2
    • 3
  • Vincent Walsh
    • 1
  • Jamie Ward
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, Institute of Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Center for Mind and BrainUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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