Saturday, March 28, 2015, 2:00 – 3:30 pm OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
“The neuroscience of aesthetics and art”
Speaker: Anjan Chatterjee, M.D.
What can neuroscience possibly tell us about aesthetics and art? In this talk, I will offer a framework from which a neuroscientist might decompose aesthetic experiences. I will discuss findings from neurology and cognitive neuroscience that reveal neural structures and networks engaged when we respond to beauty and react to art. I will consider the uneasy relationship between scientific aesthetics and the humanities, dispel some critiques, and acknowledge specific limitations of neuroaesthetics. Finally, informed by our understanding of the neural underpinnings of art, I will speculate about its evolution. Previous debates about whether art-making and appreciation represent an instinct or an epiphenomenon of other evolved capacities are probably not well-framed. I offer a third way to think about why we are now – and perhaps have always been – surrounded by these mysterious objects that we call art.
Anjan Chatterjee, MD, is the Elliott Professor and Chief of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital. He is a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. He is or has served on the editorial boards of: Empirical Studies of the Arts, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Behavioural Neurology, Neuropsychology, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, European Neurology, The Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, Brain Science, and Policy Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology. In 2002, he was awarded the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology. He is a past-President of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics and the President of the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society. His neurology practice focuses on patients with cognitive disorders. His research focuses on spatial cognition, language, ethics, and aesthetics. He is author of The Aesthetic Brain: How we Evolved to Desire Beauty and enjoy Art (Oxford, 2014), has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers and co-edited Neuroethics in Practice: Medicine, Mind, and Society and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychology.