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Magnetic resonance imaging does not reveal structural alterations in the brain of synesthetes

By M. Dojat, F. Pizzagalli, JM Hupé

Posted 02 Oct 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/196865 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194422)

Several publications have reported structural changes in the brain of synesthetes compared to controls, either local differences or differences in connectivity. In the present study, we pursued this quest for structural brain differences that might support the subjective experience of synaesthesia. In particular, for the first time in this field, we investigated brain folding in comparing 45 sulcal shapes in each hemisphere of control and grapheme-color synesthete populations. To overcome flaws relative to data interpretation based only on p-values, common in the synesthesia literature, we report confidence intervals of effect sizes. Moreover, our statistical maps are displayed without introducing the classical, but misleading, p-value level threshold. We adopt such a methodological procedure to facilitate appropriate data interpretation and promote the New Statistics approach. Based on structural or diffusion magnetic resonance imaging data, we did not find any strong cerebral anomaly, in sulci, tissue volume, tissue density or fiber organization that could support synesthetic color experience. Finally, by sharing our complete datasets, we strongly support the multi-center construction of a sufficient large dataset repository for detecting, if any, subtle brain differences that may help understanding how a subjective experience, such as synesthesia, is mentally constructed.

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