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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Description:

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.

Contents:

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

A brain-computer interface in service of the arts

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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.

International Dance Day Today!

Since 1982 the International Dance Council (CID) of the UNESCO invites us to celebrate the International Dance Day on the 29th of April. Its aim is to promote the international recognition of dance as a distinctive art form because, as the CID notes, across countries and cultures of the world dance still does not receive the same attention and consideration as other art forms.

The universal recognition of dance as an art form has clear implications for neuroaesthetics! Research in this field in the past few years has shown dance to be a noteworthy art form that can gracefully reveal important details of the emotional, cognitive and neural underpinnings of human art appreciation.

However, neuroaesthetics of dance is undoubtedly still in its infancy. Research on dance appreciation poses an array of remarkable experimental design demands to the neuroaesthetician. The first obstacle to overcome is the short-lived nature of a piece of dance –it is gone at the very moment of performance. Moreover, for experimental purposes, ideally, the dance movements must be extracted from very thoroughly crafted choreographies; the movements must be isolated from facial and musical information and, furthermore, be presented to experimental participants in the remote setting of a laboratory. Undoubtedly, this entrains an experience in the observer that is considerably different from the experience of attending a genuine dance performance. Secondly, as in all art forms, the perception of a dance is notably influenced by its cultural background and meaning, as well as by the historical moment of choreography and performance. Thus, a truly ecological experimental approach to dance seems complicated, if not impossible. Nevertheless, scientific aesthetics can overcome at least some of these constraints. By integrating existing scholarship from dance theory and humanistic approaches on dance practice, neuroaesthetics may actually find ways to approach the process of experimental design with dance movements in a more ecological fashion.

Research on dance appreciation, so far, has focused on movement perception, structure perception and emotion recognition, both in behavioral and neuroimaging studies. However, to date only few studies have linked the findings from such basic research questions with the hedonics of the proper aesthetic experience derived from the observation of that same dance movement. This is where promising avenues of study for future experimental aesthetics and neuroaesthetics reside…