Forthcoming: Art, Aesthetics and the Brain

Watch out for this new book, which will be released July this year: Huston, J. P.; Nadal, M.; Mora, F.; Agnati, L. F. & Cela-Conde, C. J. (Eds.) (2015). Art, Aesthetics and the Brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Humans have engaged in artistic and aesthetic activities since the appearance of our species. Our ancestors have decorated their bodies, tools, and utensils for over 100,000 years. The expression of meaning using color, line, sound, rhythm, or movement, among other means, constitutes a fundamental aspect of our species’ biological and cultural heritage. Art and aesthetics, therefore, contribute to our species identity and distinguish it from its living and extinct relatives.

Science is faced with the challenge of explaining the natural foundations of such a unique trait, and the way cultural processes nurture it into magnificent expressions, historically and ethnically unique. How does the human brain bring about these sorts of behaviors? What neural processes underlie the appreciation of painting, music, and dance? How does training modulate these processes? How are they impaired by brain lesions and neurodegenerative diseases? How did such neural underpinnings evolve? Are humans the only species capable of aesthetic appreciation, or are other species endowed with the rudiments of this capacity?

This volume brings together the work on such questions by leading experts in genetics, psychology, neuroimaging, neuropsychology, art history, and philosophy. It sets the stage for a cognitive neuroscience of art and aesthetics, understood in the broadest possible terms. With sections on visual art, dance, music, neuropsychology, and evolution, the breadth of this volume’s scope reflects the richness and variety of topics and methods currently used today by scientists to understand the way our brain endows us with the faculty to produce and appreciate art and aesthetics.


Section One: Foundational Issues 

  1.  Neuroculture: A new cultural revolution?, Francisco Mora
  2. Art, meaning, and aesthetics: the case for a cognitive neuroscience of art, William P. Seeley
  3. States, people, and contexts: Three psychological challenges for the neuroscience of aesthetics, Kirill Fayn and Paul J. Silvia
  4. Aesthetic appreciation – convergence from experimental aesthetics and physiology, Helmut Leder, Gernot Gerger and David Brieber
  5. The moving eye of the beholder. Eye-tracking and the perception of paintings, Christoph Klein and Raphael Rosenberg

Section Two: Cognitive Neuroscience of Visual Aesthetics and Art 

  1. Neural mechanisms for evaluating the attractiveness of faces, Spas Getov and Joel S. Winston
  2. Indeterminate art works and the human brain, Robert Pepperell and Alumit Ishai
  3. Contextual bias and insulation against bias during esthetic rating: the implication of VMPFC and DLPFC in neural valuation, Ulrich Kirk and David Freedberg
  4. Neuroimaging studies of making aesthetic products, Oshin Vartanian

Section Three: Cognitive Neuroscience of Dance 

  1. Beautiful embodiment: The shaping of aesthetic preference by personal experience, Emily S. Cross
  2. Sensorimotor aesthetics: Neural correlates of aesthetic perception of dance, Beatriz Calvo-Merino
  3. Towards ecological validity in empirical aesthetics of dance, Julia F. Christensen and Corinne Jola

Section Four: Cognitive Neuroscience of Music 

  1. Liking music: Genres, contextual factors, and individual differences, Kathleen A. Corrigall and E. Glenn Schellenberg
  2. Tension-resolution patterns as a key element of aesthetic experience: psychological principles and underlying brain mechanisms, Moritz Lehne and Stefan Koelsch
  3. From pleasure to liking and back: Bottom-up and top-down neural routes to the aesthetic enjoyment of music, Elvira Brattico
  4. Effects of expertise on the cognitive and neural processes involved in musical appreciation, Marcus T. Pearce

Section Five: Neuropsychology of Art and Aesthetics 

  1. The neuropsychology of visual art, Anjan Chatterjee
  2. The creation of art in the setting of dementia, Indre Viskontas and Suzee Lee
  3. Hemispheric specialization, art, and aesthetics, Dahlia W. Zaidel

Section Six: The Evolution of Art, Aesthetics, and the Brain 

  1. Towards a comparative approach to empirical aesthetics, Gesche Westphal-Fitch and W. Tecumseh Fitch
  2. Art and brain coevolution, Camilo J. Cela-Conde and Francisco J. Ayala
  3. Art as a human “instinct-like” behaviour emerging from the exaptation of the communication processes, Luigi F. Agnati, Diego Guidolin, and Kjell Fuxe

Section Seven: Integrative Approaches 

  1. Neurobiological foundations of art and aesthetics, Edmund T. Rolls
  2. Aesthetic evaluation of art: a formal approach, Alexander J. Huston and Joseph P. Huston
  3. Tempos of eternity: music, volition, and playing with time, Barbara G. Goodrich

Heroes of Neurons & Neuroaesthetics during the Brain Awareness Week


The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies supports the Brain Awareness Week, which is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. This year, there will be 29 events/projects running simultaneously around the world. The only one in the whole UK is also closely related to Neuroaesthetics:

Screenshot 2015-03-12 at 19.43.25As part of this campaign, the project “Heroes of Neurons” has organised a most intimate series of popular science events on the topic of the human brain and mind. These are three very unique events taking place next week (March 16th to 20th):


DRAWING NEURONS, WRITING BRAINS, PAINTING MINDS: 16th March, 6pm. City University London, Drysdale Building, Room ELG15. 

Emmanuel Pothos will give the inaugural speech and will welcome us to the Brain Awareness Week 2015. Also, he will present the talk on Neuroaesthetics from Beatriz Calvo-Merino and two neuroart exhibitions: “The Eyes of the Skin: The neuronal Underpinnings of the Bodily self through Photography” by  Alejandro Galvez-Pol and “Drawing neurons. Writing brains. Painting minds” by Albert Barque-Duran.

SPEED-SCIENCE: 18th March, 6pm. City University London, Rhind Building, Room DLG19. 

The public becomes the inquiring body, participating in the delivery of unprecedented fast rounds of swing Q&A. The heroes will be: Eduardo Alonso on artificial intelligence, Peter Ayton on decision-making, Carolyn McGettigan on language and communication, and Elliot Freeman on perception.

TALK: HEROES OF NEURONS: 20th March, 6pm. City University London, Drysdale Building, Room ELG02. 

Semir Zeki and Stefano Sandrone will share with us the most critical figures of the history of neuroscience, the Heroes of Neurons, from Ramón y Cajal to the Nobel prize John O’Keefe. A journey that has been fulfilled with misfortunes, enlightenments, and breakthrough discoveries that have defined the way we understand ourselves.

 View the whole program here.


Twitter: @HeroesofNeurons

A brain-computer interface in service of the arts


Researchers at the University of Houston Brain-Machine Interface Systems Team, led by Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, have been working with Becky Valls, associate professor of dance at the University of Huston, to create “a brain-computer interface in service of the arts”, as Jeannie Kever reports. A wireless EEG cap recording Valls brainwaves while performing dance allows her to modulate the stage lights during her live choreography. 

Read more at the Texas Medical Center news page and at the Huston Chronicle.

See rehearsal video.