Books

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Chatterjee, A. (2014). The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art. New York: Oxford University Press.

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minissMinissale, G. (2013). The Psychology of Contemporary Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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matherMather, G. (2013). The Psychology of Visual Art. Eye, Brain and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

To understand and appreciate visual art we first have to perceive it. The Psychology of Visual Art, by George Mather, Professor of Vision Science at the University of Lincoln, constitutes a fine introduction to the principles of perception and their relation to the production and appreciation of visual art. In a clear and concise way he explains the process of vision, from light arriving to the retina to the formation of stable percepts of the surrounding world. He covers such diverse topics as visual defects and their effects on art production, the perception of objects, scenes, and motion in reality and in artworks, or image statistics and their relation to aesthetic appreciation.

Though art historical are given a place in the book, Mather’s background as a vision scientist is palpable throughout. This allows him to intelligently dismantle some popular misconceptions about vision, such as the idea that perception of motion in films relies on the persistence of vision. He explains that this would exactly destroy an impression of motion. Rather, it is the activation of adjacent motion-selective neurons through slight shifting of the objects that create our impression of motion (p. 100). The tradeoff of his vision background is that he argues less compellingly about other topics such as evolutionary psychology, or art history. Overall, however, the book is one of the most up to date and comprehensive introductions to the basics of visual perception and the perceptual foundations of the appreciation for art available today.

Michael  Forster

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daviesDavies, S. (2012). The Artful Species. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Shimamura, A. P. & Palmer, S. E. (Eds.) (2012). Aesthetic Science: Connecting Minds, Brains, and Experience. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Schellekens, E. & Goldie, E. (Eds.) (2011). The Aesthetic Mind. Philosophy and Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Bacci, F. & Melcher, D. (Eds.) (2011). Art and the Senses. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Kringelbach, M. L. & Berridge, K. C. (Eds.) (2010). Pleasures of the brain. New York: Oxford University Press.

Morten Kringelbach and Kent Berridge have managed to fit the work of many key figures in current research on the biology of pleasure in a single volume. The book begins with some of the authors of subsequent chapters addressing 17 questions concerning the characterization of pleasure, its measurement, differences between forms of pleasure, differences between animal and human pleasure, and the relation between pleasure and biological processes, as well as with cognitive and affective processes. Although not all authors respond to all the questions, the reader realizes the extent to which experts disagree on their approaches to even the most basic issues.

The main bulk of the book is structured into three sections: Animal pleasures, human pleasures and clinical applications. The first section includes chapters that delineate the basic brain systems involved in pleasure generation, the relation between the reward circuit and conditioned reinforcement, the role of the ventral pallidum in liking, the relation between pleasure, motivation and consciousness, and the importance of ethological considerations in understanding the biological mechanisms underlying pleasure.

The section on human pleasures includes two chapters that deal broadly with the nature and function of pleasure in humans, and its relation to cognition and consciousness, and one providing an overview of the human functional neuroanatomy of pleasure. Subsequent chapters have narrower focuses, and cover the biological underpinnings of pleasures of olfaction, taste, desire, sex, happiness, music, and art.

The clinical applications section includes only three chapters that cover the relation between pain and pleasure, placebo analgesia, and the effects of deep brain stimulation.

This is clearly not a book on neuroaesthetics strictly speaking. Many of the chapters included in the volume will, however, provide researchers interested in neuroaesthetics excellent and up-to-date overviews of topics that are essential to understand the biological mechanisms involved in artistic activities and aesthetic experience, especially those related with affect and emotion

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Bogousslavsky, J., Hennerici, M. G., Bäzner, H., & Bassetti, C. (Eds.). (2010). Neurological disorders in famous artists. Part 3. Basel: Krager.

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Martín-Aragúz, A., Campos-Bueno, J. J., Fernández-Armayor, V. & de Juan Ayala, O. (2010). Neuroestética. Madrid: Saned.

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Massey, I. (2009). The neural imagination. Aesthetic and neuroscientific approaches to the arts. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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Skov, M. & Vartanian, O. (Eds.). (2009). Neuroaesthetics. Amityville, NY: Baywood.

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Livingstone, M. S. (2008). Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing. New York: Abrams.

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Martindale, C., Locher, P. & Petrov, V. (Eds.). (2007). Evolutionary and neurocognitive approaches to aesthetics, creativity and the arts. Amityville, NY: Baywood.

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Bogousslavsky, J., Hennerici, M. G. (Eds.). (2007). Neurological disorders in famous artists. Part 2. Basel: Krager.

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Rose, F. C. (Ed.). (2006). The Neurobiology of painting. International Review of Neurobiology, Vol. 74. San Diego: Academic Press.

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Bogousslavsky, J., & Boller, F. (Eds.). (2005). Neurological disorders in famous artists. Basel: Krager.

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Zaidel, D. W. (2005). Neuropsychology of Art: Neurological, Cognitive, and Evolutionary Perspectives. Hove, England: Psychology Press.

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Zeki, S. (1999). Inner Vision. An Exploration of Art and the Brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Aiken, N. E. (1998). The Biological Origins of Art. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Stimulating research on the biological basis of aesthetics

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