School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences


Dr Julia Simner

Photograph of Dr Julia Simner
0131 650 3450
F31 (7GS)
Research Interests
I run the Synaesthesia & Sensory Integration Lab, where I examine cross-modal mappings in people with synaesthesia and in the population at large.

I'm a cognitive neuropsychologist who studied in languages, language sciences and experimental psychology at the Universities of Paris/Sorbonne, Oxford, Toronto, and Sussex. I came to Edinburgh University in 2002, where I now run the Synaesthesia & Sensory Integration Lab.

Research Area

Synaesthesia (US spelling synesthesia) is an inherited condition which causes unusual perceptions or associations, triggered by everyday activities like reading, speaking, or eating. For example, synaesthetes might perceive colours when listening to music, or tastes in the mouth when reading words. Synaesthesia has been linked to differences in white/grey matter structure, and can involve direct sensory crossing (e.g., sound to vision), or can be mediated by higher level functions such as language. My work examines the prevalence, cognition, perception, inheritance, neuroscience, aesthetics and history of synaesthesia. I also study cases of savant syndrome, in which individuals exhibit  'islands of genius' (e.g., calendar counting) in contast to deficits in other domains. Finally, I also examine sensory integration in the general population, and how sensory perception influences language processing.

Representative Publications

  1. Simner & Ward (2006). Taste of words on the tip of the tongue. Nature 444, 438.
  2. Simner, J et al. (2009). Early detection of markers for synaesthesia in childhood populations Brain 132; 57–64.
  3. Simner, J (2007). Beyond perception: Synaesthesia as a psycholinguistic phenomenon. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11, 23-29.
  4. Simner, J (2013). Why are there different types of synaesthete? Frontiers in Psychology (in press)

Research publications

Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae

Grants and awards

  • 2014: [€1.3 million; 4-year] ERC Consolidator Grant: MULTISENSE: Lifespan Development of Typical and Atypical Multisensory Perception.
  • 2013:  [£466,901; 3-year] ESRC Research Grant: Enhanced Memory Ability: Insights from Synaesthesia (PI J Ward; CI J Simner)
  • 2009: recognised by the Atomium Culture European Platform for Excellence
  • 2005-07: [£52,127;  2-year] Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship: Psycholinguistic investigations of linguistic synaesthesias.
  • 2002-05: [£78,782; 3-year] British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship: The effect of co-reference on memory representations.
  • 2002: ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (awarded).
  • 2003-05: [£7,615] University of Edinburgh Developmental Trust Awards
  • 2002-03: [4,822; 1-year] British Academy Small Grant: Co-reference and memory.

Books, Chapters and Edited Volumes

  • Oxford Handbook of SynesthesiaSimner, J., & Hubbard, E.M. The Oxford Handbook of Synaesthesia. Oxford University Press: Oxford (2013).
  • Simner, J Synesthesia. In Encyclopedia of Human Behaviour. V.S. Ramachandran (Ed.) Elsevier: San Diego (in press).
  • Simner, J. Synaesthesia in Colour. In New Directions in Colour Studies. Biggam, C.P., Hough, C.A., Kay, C.J. and Simmons, D.R. (Eds.) John Benjamins Publishing Company (2010).
  • Simner, J. (Ed.). Synaesthesia and visuo-spatial forms [Special section]. Cortex, 45, 1190-1278. (2009).
  • Simner, J. An introduction to ordinal linguistic personification, (pp. 131-134) In Synästhesie der Gefühle. Tagungsband zur Konferenz, Synaisthesis. J. Sinha (Ed.) Luxemburg (2009)
  • Simner, J. Lexical-gustatory synesthesia. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. U. Windhorst, M. Binder & N. Hirokawa (Eds). Springer Verlag GmbH: Heidelberg, pp. 2149-2152 (2009)

Recent Conferences & Keynotes

  • Simner, J. & Bankieris, K. Synaesthesia & Sound Symbolism. Symposium Paper presented at the XVIII Conference of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology, Budapest, Hungary, 2013.
  • Simner, J. The Aesthetic Consequences of Merged Senses. Keynote speech presented at Neuroaesthetics. Karlsruhe, Germany, Nov 2012.
  • Simner, J. The Synaesthetic Continuum. Keynote speech presented at American Synaesthesia Association. Vanderbilt University, USA, October 2010.
  • Simner, J. What Colour does that Feel? Paper presented at Artecitta, Granada, Spain. 2009.
  • Simner, J. Synaesthesia: A foundation for savantism? Paper presented at ESCOP, Krakow, Poland, 2009.
  • Simner, J. Synaesthesia and the Merging of the Senses. Paper presented at Neuroact, Marburg, Germany, 2009.
  • Simner, J. Synaesthesia: cross-modal qualities of perception. Paper presented at the European Science Foundation seminars on Qualities in Perception. Trento, Italy, 2009.
  • Simner, J. Synaesthesia and personality. Keynote speech presented at the International Meeting of the German Synaesthesia Association. Hanover, Germany, November 2008.

Examples of Public Engagement

Photo Credit (portrait top right): Heshani Sothiraj Eddleston


Students supervised