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Dr. Berit Brogaard

University of Missouri, St. Louis
Departments of Philosophy and Psychology
One University Blvd

Brief Biography:

Brogaard was born and raised in Copenhagen, and since 2011 she has been Professor of Philosophy and Director of the St. Louis Synesthesia Research Team at University of Missouri, St. Louis. From an early age, she excelled at physics, mathematics, and biology, eventually completing her undergraduate education at the University of Copenhagen with a Bachelor's degree in linguistic and philosophy. She then studied neuroscience under the direction of Thue Schwartz, M.D., D.M.Sci. at University of Copenhagen and the Danish National Hospital.

Upon completion of her degrees in Copenhagen she studied linguistics and philosophy at State University of New York at Buffalo, where she obtained her PhD. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Consciousness and the Philosophy Program directed by David Chalmers at Australian National University from 2007 to 2009, and her first tenure-track position was at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, from 2001 to 2005. She was subsequently appointed Associate Professor of Philosophy (2007–2011) at University of Missouri, St. Louis.


Academic positions:

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2010-present.

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2008-present.

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri—St. Louis, 2005-2008.

Level B Research Fellow, Philosophy Program RSSS/Centre for Consciousness, Australian National University, 2007-2008.

Affiliate Faculty, Institute for Women and Gender Studies, University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2005-present.


Research interests:

In the area of cognitive neuroscience Brogaard is best known for her work on synesthesia and savant syndrome. Her team, which consists of colleagues from the St. Louis Synesthesia Research Team, University of Missouri, St. Louis and the Visual Awareness and Cognition Group, Brain Research Unit, Low Temperature Laboratory, Aalto University School of Science, Finland just completed a series of studies of Jason Padgett, who has acquired savant syndrome and acquired synesthesia. Jason Padgett was mugged in 2002. He was hit on his head and developed a form of synesthesia and savant syndrome. Certain objects and mathematical formulas trigger synethetic mathematical fractals in him. He is the first to hand-draw mathematical fractals, an ability he acquired after the incident.

In a series of functional MRI studies in Finland, Brogaard's team found uni-lateral left-side activity in parietal and frontal areas when Padgett was exposed to the mathematical formulas that give rise to synesthetic fractals in him and bi-lateral activation when he was exposed to non-sense formulas or formulas that don't give rise to synesthetic fractals.

They re-tested the results from the Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) using Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). In the TMS study, Padgett was shown formulas and was asked to rate his synesthetic sensation on a scale 1-10, relative to his "baseline" percept (i.e. without TMS). They applied TMS over the brain areas that were activated in the fMRI scan with the formulas that give rise to synesthetic experiences and found the TMS modulated two central areas.

The results establish for the first time that synesthesia and savant syndrome of a mathematical kind use areas of the brain that normally are used only for the creation of novel visual imagery


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