Visual Neuroaesthetics (VisNA) Lab

What does it mean for a painting to fill us with wonder, for a sunset to be beautiful or for a film to move us? Why do some visual experiences have the power to reach inside and grab us, while others leave little impression? How can we measure these experiences scientifically?

In the VisNA Lab, we study the psychological and neural basis of aesthetic experiences, such as when a person is aesthetically “moved” by visual art, poetry, architecture, music, or natural landscapes. Much of our research relies on brain imaging (fMRI, EEG) and behavioral techniques. We also frequently use computational tools (e.g. machine learning), measurements of physiology and eyetracking. 

Our core research areas are:

  • Identifying the central cognitive and emotional processes that underly aesthetic experiences and the interacting neural systems that support them.
  • Characterizing the conditions that lead to “shared taste” across a population of individuals in different aesthetic domains.
  • Development of methods for studying aesthetic experiences in more naturalistic settings such as museums and performance halls.

 

Want to volunteer for our studies?

Go here to sign up for the Institute's Research Participant Registry.

 

News

This year's Conference of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics (IAEA) is taking place in London from September 1–4, 2020. Posters/Symposia submission is open from February 29 until March 30. We aim to confirm submissions acceptance by April 30.

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Arte.tv featured VisNA Lab members in a recent episode of Xenius entitled Ästhetik.

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The science communication website Latest Thinking has published a video featuring Edward Vessel entitled How Do Aesthetic Experiences Function in the Brain?

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Events

Visual Neuroaesthetics Symposium (VisNA) 2018

In this symposium, we will bring together the experts in the field of visual neuroaesthetics to discuss recent experimental advances and identify new directions for future research. The primary focus will be neuroimaging investigations of visual aesthetic experiences. This includes experiences with visual art, architecture, photography, sculpture, film and dance, as well as non-artistic stimuli such as landscapes, faces and abstract patterns. In addition, work using other neuroscience methods will be included as well as foundational behavioral or computational work that is informative for neuroscientific inquiry and theory.

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CNS meeting Aesthetics Social

Social event and Data Blitz session at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society's (CNS) annual meeting for scientists interested in aesthetics research.

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People

Edward A. Vessel

Team Leader

Ayse Ilkay Isik

PhD Candidate

Dominik Welke

PhD Candidate

 

Projects

 

 

 

 

VisNA Lab Team

Edward A. Vessel, PhD

Researcher

+49 69 8300479-327

E-Mail

Ayse Ilkay Isik

Researcher

+49 69 8300479-343

E-Mail

Dominik Welke

Researcher

+49 69 8300479-347

E-Mail

Resources

  • Dataset from Vessel et al. (2018) "Stronger shared taste for natural aesthetic domains than for artifacts of human culture."

Latest Publications

Belfi, A. M., Vessel, E. A., Brielmann, A., Isik, A. I., Chatterjee, A., Leder, H., Pelli, D. G., & Starr, G. (2019). Dynamics of aesthetic experience are reflected in the default-mode network. NeuroImage,188, 584-597. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.12.017.
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Isik, A. I., & Vessel, E. A. (2019). Continuous ratings of movie watching reveal idiosyncratic dynamics of aesthetic enjoyment. PLoS One,14(10): e0223896. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0223896.
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Vessel, E. A., Isik, A. I., Belfi, A. M., Stahl, J. L., & Starr, a. G. G. (2019). The default-mode network represents aesthetic appeal that generalizes across visual domains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.1902650116.
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Appelhoff, S., Sanderson, M., Brooks, T. L., van Vliet, M., Quentin, R., Holdgraf, C., Chaumon, M., Mikulan, E., Tavabi, K., Höchenberger, R., Welke, D., Brunner, C., Rockhill, A. P., Larson, E., Gramfort, A., & Jas, M. (2019). MNE-BIDS: Organizing electrophysiological data into the BIDS format and facilitating their analysis. The Journal of Open Source Software,4(44): 1896. doi:10.21105/joss.01896.
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Esteban, O., Markiewicz, C. J., Blair, R. W., Moodie, C. A., Isik, A. I., Erramuzpe, A., Kent, J. D., Goncalves, M., DuPre, E., Snyder, M., Oya, H., Ghosh, S. S., Wright, J., Durnez, J., Poldrack, R. A., & Gorgolewski, K. J. (2019). fMRIPrep: A robust preprocessing pipeline for functional MRI. Nature methods,16(1), 111-116. doi:10.1038/s41592-018-0235-4.
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Isik, A. I., Naumer, M. J., Kaiser, J., Buschenlange, C., Wiesmann, S., Czoschke, S., & Yalachkov, Y. (2017). Automatized smoking-related action schemata are reflected by reduced fMRI activity in sensorimotor brain regions of smokers. NeuroImage: Clinical,15, 753-760. doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2017.06.021.
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Vessel, E. A., Biederman, I., Subramaniam, S., & Greene, M. R. (2016). Effective signaling of surface boundaries by L-vertices reflect the consistency of their contrast in natural images. Journal of Vision,16(9): 15. doi:doi:10.1167/16.9.15.
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Belfi, A. M., Kasdan, A., Rowland, J., Vessel, E. A., Starr, G. G., & Poeppel, D. (2018). Rapid timing of musical aesthetic judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,147(10), 1531-1543. doi:10.1037/xge0000474.
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Vessel, E. A., Maurer, N., Denker, A. H., & Starr, G. G. (2018). Stronger shared taste for natural aesthetic domains than for artifacts of human culture. Cognition,179, 121-131. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2018.06.009.
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Belfi, A. M., Vessel, E. A., & Starr, G. G. (2018). Individual ratings of vividness predict aesthetic appeal in poetry. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts,12(3), 341-350. doi:10.1037/aca0000153.
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Vessel, E. A. (2020). Neuroaesthetics. In Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology. Amsterdam: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-809324-5.24104-7.
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