Visual Neuroaesthetics Symposium (VisNA) 2018

at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics


April 4–6, 2018


Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Grüneburgweg 14, 60322, Frankfurt, Germany


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.

There will be a poster session to give all attendees the opportunity to share their research.

We are also very excited to offer a "Neuroaesthetics in the Wild" session which will take place in Frankfurt's Städel Museum which hosts one of the most important art collections in Germany. This session will include a tour of the museum with mobile equipment, a dance performance and a moderated panel discussion where we will discuss how to bridge the gap between laboratory research and real life aesthetic experiences.



There is no "open call" for attendance to keep the symposium small in size and focus on high-level discussion. However, the talks will be recorded and broadcasted via the website of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics after the symposium.

Registration Fees

There is no fee to attend the conference.


Edward A. Vessel
Ayşe İlkay Işık
Eugen Wassiliwizky
Diana Omigie

List of Speakers (in alphabetical order)

Moshe Bar (Bar-Ilan University)
Aenne Brielmann (New York University)
Beatrice Calvo-Merino (City, University of London)
Zaira Cattaneo (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca)
Emily Cross (Bangor University)
Cinzia Di Dio (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore)
Nancy Etcoff (Harvard/MGH)
Tomohiro Ishizu (Universität Wien)
Chai-Youn Kim (Korea University)
Helmut Leder (Universität Wien)
Marcos Nadal (Universitat de les Illes Balears)
Guido Orgs (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Matthew Pelowski (Universität Wien)
Robert Pepperell (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
Oshin Vartanian (University of Toronto, Department of Psychology)
Edward Vessel (MPI for Empirical Aesthetics)

Conference Schedule

Day 1

Wednesday, April 4


Welcome Session (MPIEA ArtLab and Foyer)
Opening remarks, Artlab demo and talk by Robert Pepperell "Art, Energy and the Brain" 
NOTE: due to limited space in the ArtLab, this event is for invited attendees only. Live video of the event will be streamed in the Foyer for those MPI researchers who cannot be accommodated.

Day 2

Thursday, April 5


Session 1: Foundational Concepts in Visual Neuroaesthetics
Talks by Moshe Bar, Nancy Etcoff and Marcos Nadal


Session 2: Exploring the Mechanisms of Aesthetic Experience
Talks by Aenne Brielmann, Edward Vessel, Zaira Cattaneo and Chai-Youn Kim


Neuroaesthetics in the Wild  (Staedel Museum, Metzler Saal)
Tour of museum with mobile equipment, dance performance and moderated discussion
NOTE: this event is open to invited conference attendees and special guests. Additional MPI researchers will be accommodated on a space-available basis.

Day 3

Friday, April 6


Session 3: Embodied Aesthetics
Talks by Cinzia Di Dio, Beatriz Calvo-Merino, Emily Cross and Guido Orgs


Poster Session (MPIEA Library)


Session 4: Frontiers in Neuroaesthetics Research
Talks by Helmut Leder, Tomohiro Ishizu, Oshin Vartanian and Matthew Pelowski


Concluding remarks


We recommend the following options. Note that you will need to walk or take public transportation to reach the conference venue.

Within walking distance:

Hotel Mondial
Heinestraße 13, 60322 Frankfurt
6 min walk

Villa Orange
Hebelstraße 1, 60316 Frankfurt
16 min walk

Long walking distance or public transportation recommended:

NH Collection Frankfurt City
Vilbeler Str. 2, 60313 Frankfurt
20 Min walk (or 8 Min to "Eschenheimer Tor" U-station, then 2 min walk to Grüneburgweg)

NH Frankfurt Messe
Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage 38, 60325 Frankfurt
26 Min walk (or 16 min to U-station Alte Oper then change at Hauptwache to northern lines U1, U2, U3, U8 - 10 min)

NH Frankfurt Villa
Emil-Sulzbach-Straße 14-16, 60486 Frankfurt
30 min walk (or 20 - 30 min with U6 or U7 at Bockenheimer Warte to Hauptwache)

Frankfurt Hostel
Kaiserstraße 74, 60329 Frankfurt 
15 min - 3 min to Hauptbahnhof: every S-Bahn directions: Hanau, Offenbach, Südbahnhof, Darmstadt to Taunusanlage than walk 10 min or continue to Hauptwache and take northbound lines.

Pension Alpha
Karlsruher Str. 7, 60329 Frankfurt 
20 min walk (or same as Frankfurt Hostel, but 5 min walk to Hauptbahnhof)

Hotel Elbe
Elbestraße 34, 60329 Frankfurt
22 min walk (or same as Frankfurt Hostel)

DJH Jugendherberge Frankfurt
(Frankfurt Youth Hostel)

Deutschherrnufer 12, 60594 Frankfurt
18 min (12 min walk to Schweizer Platz then take northbound lines U1, U2, U3, U8 )

Smart Stay Hotel
An der Brücke 8-10, 64546 Mörfelden-Walldorf
1h with S-Bahn via Wallau Bahnhof

Travel Information

GENERAL: Please check whether you will need a visa for Germany! Applying for and obtaining the visa is your own responsibility.

How to purchase a train ticket:

You have to purchase a ticket on a machine with German or English as operating languages.  Those machines are placed in the entrance areas of the stations, usually before you are taking stairs down to the train platforms. Just click "Einzelfahrt Frankfurt" or "Single trip Frankfurt" for an adult. You need change or a Maestro-Card to buy a ticket (no Credit Cards).

Directions upon arrival at the airport:

Please follow the signs to the "Regional-Bahnhof" at the airport, the underground train station for the S-trains. After purchasing a ticket, go downstairs and take S8 or S9, direction "Hanau". Get off and change trains at the station "Hauptwache". Take the U1, U2, U3 or U8 not to Frankfurt Süd but to any other directions (Oberursel (Taunus)-Hohemark, Ginnheim, Nieder-Eschbach, Riedberg) and get off the second stop at "Grüneburgweg".

Directions upon arrival by train:

At Frankfurt main station ("Hauptbahnhof") take underground line U4 or U5 to "Willy-Brandt-Platz". Get off and change trains at "Willy-Brandt-Platz". Take the U1, U2, U3 or U8 not to Frankfurt Süd but to any other directions (see above) and get off the third stop at "Grüneburgweg".

How to get to the institute from the (nearest) underground station "Grüneburgweg" (U1, U2, U3, U8):

Take the exit "Grüneburgweg", after 50 m turn right into "Grüneburgweg". Stay on the right side of the street. After crossing the second side street ("Im Trutz"), you will find our Institute in the building Westend Carree on your right, entrance Grüneburgweg 14.

Travel directions upon arrival by car:

On the motorway A5 at Autobahnkreuz (interchange) Nordwestkreuz Frankfurt keep right and follow the signs A66 in direction "F-Miquelallee/F-Stadtmitte". Take the fork in the direction of Frankfurt-Miquelallee and follow A66 for another 5 km.
Continue on Miquellallee/B8 for another 700 m, then turn right into "Eschersheimer Landstraße". After about 1200 m turn right into "Grüneburgweg". When you pass the street "Im Trutz" you will find our Institute in the building Westend Carree on your right, entrance Grüneburgweg 14.

Please note: The parking capacities of our car park are limited. Please let us know in advance, if you intend to arrive by car.



Neuroaesthetics in the Wild

An evening with the MPIEA at the Städel Museum of Art

5 April, 19:00 - 21:00, Metzler Hall

Doors open at 18:30
How can the young field of Neuroaesthetics bridge the gap between the rich experience of visiting a museum or performance and the more restricted aesthetic experiences that can be tested in a lab? As part of the 2018 Visual Neuroaesthetics Symposium, the MPIEA will co-host an event at the Städel Museum to explore the promise of mobile technology to enable the study of aesthetic experiences “in the wild.” 

19:00 Welcome by Philipp Demandt (Städel), David Poeppel (MPIEA), Eugen Wassiliwizky (MPIEA)

19:15 Brief guided museum tour

19:45 Live dance performance
"An Adaptation of Trespassing" by Kristina Veit, Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Frankfurt am Main

20:10 Panel Discussion
"Neuroaesthetics in the Wild: Using mobile technologies to bridge between lab-based and real-world aesthetic experiences” 

Helmut Leder
Chantal Eschenfelder
Suzanne Dikker
Regina Oehler
Kristina Veit
Moderator: Edward A. Vessel, MPIEA