The neuroaesthetics of prose fiction, by Michael Burke

Burke, M. (2015). The neuroaesthetics of prose fiction: pitfalls, parameters and prospects. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9: 442. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00442


There is a paucity of neuroaesthetic studies on prose fiction. This is in contrast to the very many impressive studies that have been conducted in recent times on the neuroaesthetics of sister arts such as painting, music and dance. Why might this be the case, what are its causes and, of greatest importance, how can it best be resolved? In this article, the pitfalls, parameters and prospects of a neuroaesthetics of prose fiction will be explored. The article itself is part critical review, part methodological proposal and part opinion paper. Its aim is simple: to stimulate, excite and energize thinking in the discipline as to how prose fiction might be fully integrated in the canon of neuroaesthetics and to point to opportunities where neuroimaging studies on literary discourse processing might be conducted in collaborative work bringing humanists and scientists together.

Get the whole paper here!

The quartet theory of human emotions – Koelsch et al. 2015

Check out this new paper on the neural foundations of human emotions (it comes with many great commentaries):

Koelsch, S., Jacobs, A. M.,  Menninghaus, W.,  Liebal, K.,  Klann-Delius, G.,  von Scheve, C.,  Gebauer, G. (2015) The quartet theory of human emotions: An integrative and neurofunctional modelPhysics of Life Reviews, 13, 1-27.


Despite an explosion of research in the affective sciences during the last few decades, interdisciplinary theories of human emotions are lacking. Here we present a neurobiological theory of emotions that includes emotions which are uniquely human (such as complex moral emotions), considers the role of language for emotions, advances the understanding of neural correlates of attachment-related emotions, and integrates emotion theories from different disciplines. We propose that four classes of emotions originate from four neuroanatomically distinct cerebral systems. These emotional core systems constitute a quartet of affect systems: the brainstem-, diencephalon-, hippocampus-, and orbitofrontal-centred affect systems. The affect systems were increasingly differentiated during the course of evolution, and each of these systems generates a specific class of affects (e.g., ascending activation, pain/pleasure, attachment-related affects, and moral affects). The affect systems interact with each other, and activity of the affect systems has effects on – and interacts with – biological systems denoted here as emotional effector systems. These effector systems include motor systems (which produce actions, action tendencies, and motoric expression of emotion), peripheral physiological arousal, as well as attentional and memory systems. Activity of affect systems and effector systems is synthesized into an emotion percept (pre-verbal subjective feeling), which can be transformed (or reconfigured) into a symbolic code such as language. Moreover, conscious cognitive appraisal (involving rational thought, logic, and usually language) can regulate, modulate, and partly initiate, activity of affect systems and effector systems. Our emotion theory integrates psychological, neurobiological, sociological, anthropological, and psycholinguistic perspectives on emotions in an interdisciplinary manner, aiming to advance the understanding of human emotions and their neural correlates.

Neurocognitive poetics, by Arthur M. Jacobs

New open-access paper just published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:

Jacobs AM (2015) Neurocognitive poetics: methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literature reception. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 9:186.


A long tradition of research including classical rhetoric, esthetics and poetics theory, formalism and structuralism, as well as current perspectives in (neuro)cognitive poetics has investigated structural and functional aspects of literature reception. Despite a wealth of literature published in specialized journals like Poetics, however, still little is known about how the brain processes and creates literary and poetic texts. Still, such stimulus material might be suited better than other genres for demonstrating the complexities with which our brain constructs the world in and around us, because it unifies thought and language, music and imagery in a clear, manageable way, most often with play, pleasure, and emotion (Schrott and Jacobs, 2011). In this paper, I discuss methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literary reading together with pertinent results from studies on poetics, text processing, emotion, or neuroaesthetics, and outline current challenges and future perspectives.

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