Behavioral and neural foundations of aesthetic experience

This research area takes a neurobiological view of "the aesthetic granularity problem.” What are the "atoms of aesthetic experience," as viewed from human neuroscience? Experiencing a single musical note or one word is arguably too small a unit of analysis; experiencing an entire symphony or whole novel is arguably too big. What constitutes an "aesthetic primitive," from a brain’s-eye-view? A second focus concerns the variability of experience - despite compelling neurobiological universals or shared properties. Here we seek to identify the principles (universal? innate?) and parameters (culture-specific and contingent? acquired?) of aesthetic experience. 



Aesthetics Across Visual Domains

Individuals can be aesthetically engaged by objects from widely different visual aesthetic domains, such as paintings, mountain vistas, or buildings. The goal of this project is to understand whether aesthetic appreciation of different visual domains relies on the same underlying processes.


Aesthetically Moving Experiences and Creative Inspiration

Moments of creative inspiration are critical pivot points that mark the transition from creative ideation to actualization of an idea.


Brain on Screen

When we go to the cinema, we partake in a complex experience. How does a series of two-dimensional images and sounds blend into an immersive, sometimes lifelike narrative experience? And how do different individuals in the movie theater become one audience?


Exploring Network Interactions during Aesthetic Experiences

How does the brain support aesthetic experiences with visual stimuli such as artwork, landscapes, architecture or dance? Recent work in our group suggests that finding a painting to be aesthetically moving involves a change away from the typical behavior of large-scale brain networks.


Development of Preferences

Adult liking judgments for visual scenes are strongly influenced by the semantic content of images, more so than by lower-level visual features (e.g. the presence of specific colors or line types).


Electrophysiological Correlates of Aesthetically Moving Experiences

How does the brain support aesthetically “moving” experiences with visual art in situ?


The performer's perspective on the aesthetic experience

Music can be described from different points of view including the musicologist's historically informed perspective, the music theorist's notation-based relationships between sounds, and also the layman listener's verbalization of an ad hoc intuition. The result of each of these different abstractions can be considered a model of the music. Although these models will differ in complexity and accuracy, each likely captures to a certainty degree important aspects of a musical piece. A much less popular source to arrive at such a model is the performer's perspective.