TALK: The Neuroscience of Aesthetics and Art

Anjan Chatterjee (Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania)
Thursday, November 19, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

What can neuroscience possibly tell us about aesthetics and art? In this talk, Anjan Chatterjee will offer a framework from which a neuroscientist might deconstruct aesthetic experiences. Chatterjee will discuss findings from neurology and cognitive neuroscience that reveal neural structures and networks engaged when we respond to beauty and react to art. Finally, informed by our understanding of the neural underpinnings of art, he 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. His talk offers 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 is the Frank A. and Gladys H. Elliott Professor and Chair 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 received his BA in Philosophy from Haverford College and his MD from the University of Pennsylvania; he completed his neurology residency at the University of Chicago. His clinical practice focuses on patients with cognitive disorders. His research addresses questions about spatial cognition and language, attention, neuroethics, and neuroaesthetics. He is the author of The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art and co-editor of Neuroethics in Practice: Mind, Medicine, and Society, and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychology.

He was awarded the 2002 Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology. He is a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Neuroethics Society, the President of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, and the President of the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society. He serves on the Boards of Haverford College, the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Universal Promise and is on the Advisory Board of Cognitive Dynamics.

soundcloudClick here to listen to a recording of Anjan Chatterjee’s talk for the 2015-16 IHC series: The Humanities and the Brain.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Humanities and the Brain.

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