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

Wie wirkt ein Kunstwerk auf seine Betrachter:innen? Und was spielt sich dabei im Gehirn ab?

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Wie wird ein Blick in die Natur zu einem beeindruckenden Erlebnis?

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Das Betrachten von Gemälden kann kreative Prozesse anregen

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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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IAEA 2021 Virtual Conference

Check out VisNA lab work at the International Association for Empirical Aesthetics (IAEA) 2021 Virtual Conference

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Our Studies

Studie zur neuronalen Verarbeitung von Bildern

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Neurowissenschaftliche Studie mit fMRT-Messung

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People

Edward A. Vessel

Team Leader

Ayse Ilkay Isik

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dominik Welke

PhD Candidate

Projects

Latest Publications

Golbabaei, S., Christensen, J. F., Vessel, E. A., Kazemian, N., & Borhani, K. (2022). The Aesthetic Responsiveness Assessment (AReA) in Farsi language: A scale validation and cultural adaptation study. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/aca0000532.
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Vessel, E. A., Ishizu, T., & Bignardi, G. (2022). Neural correlates of visual aesthetic appeal. In M. Skov, & M. Nadal (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of neuroaesthetics (pp. 103-133). London: Routledge.
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Welke, D., & Vessel, E. A. (2022). Naturalistic viewing conditions can increase task engagement and aesthetic preference but have only minimal impact on EEG quality. NeuroImage,256: 119218. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119218.
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Vessel, E. A., & Starr, G. G. (2022). Imaging the subjective. In A. Chatterjee, & E. Cardilo (Eds.), Brain, beauty, and art: Essays bringing neuroaesthetics into focus (pp. 117-121). New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oso/9780197513620.003.0024.
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Vessel, E. A., Yue, X., & Biederman, I. (2022). Scene preferences, aesthetic appeal, and curiosity: Revisiting the neurobiology of the infovore. In A. Chatterjee, & E. Cardilo (Eds.), Brain, beauty, and art: Essays bringing neuroaesthetics into focus (pp. 61-65). New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oso/9780197513620.003.0013.
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Strijbosch, W., Vessel, E. A., Welke, D., Mitas, O., Gelissen, J., & Bastiaansen, M. (2022). On the neuronal dynamics of aesthetic experience: Evidence from electroencephalographic oscillatory dynamics. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,34(3), 461-479. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01812.
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Vessel, E. A., Yue, X., & Biederman, I. (2022). Scene preferences, aesthetic appeal and curiosity: Revisiting the neurobiology of the infovore. In A. Chatterjee, & E. Cardilo (Eds.), Brain, beauty, and art: Essays bringing neuroaesthetics into focus (pp. 61ff). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oso/9780197513620.003.0013.
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Vessel, E. A., & Starr, G. G. (2022). Imaging the subjective. In A. Chatterjee, & E. Cardilo (Eds.), Brain, beauty, and art: Essays bringing neuroaesthetics into focus (pp. 117ff). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oso/9780197513620.003.0024.
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Schlotz, W., Wallot, S., Omigie, D., Masucci, M. D., Hoelzmann, S. C., & Vessel, E. A. (2021). The Aesthetic Responsiveness Assessment (AReA): A screening tool to assess individual differences in responsiveness to art in English and German. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts,15(4), 682-696. doi:10.1037/aca0000348.
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Pavlov, Y. G., Adamian, N., Appelhoff, S., Arvaneh, M., Benwell, C. S. Y., Beste, C., Bland, A. R., Bradford, D. E., Bublatzky, F., Busch, N. A., Clayson, P. E., Cruse, D., Czeszumski, A., Dreber, A., Dumas, G., Ehinger, B., Ganis, G., He, X., Hinojosa, J. A., Huber-Huber, C., Inzlicht, M., Jack, B. N., Johannesson, M., Jones, R., Kalenkovich, E., Kaltwasser, L., Karimi-Rouzbahani, H., Keil, A., König, P., Kouara, L., Kulke, L., Ladouceur, C. D., Langer, N., Liesefeld, H. R., Luque, D., MacNamara, A., Mudrik, L., Muthuraman, M., Neal, L. B., Nilsonne, G., Niso, G., Ocklenburg, S., Oostenveld, R., Pernet, C. R., Pourtois, G., Ruzzoli, M., Sass, S. M., Schaefer, A., Senderecka, M., Snyder, J. S., Tamnes, C. K., Tognoli, E., van Vugt, M. K., Verona, E., Vloeberghs, R., Welke, D., Wessel, J. R., Zakharov, I., & Mushtaq, F. (2021). #EEGManyLabs: Investigating the replicability of influential EEG experiments. Cortex,144, 213-229. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2021.03.013.
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Vessel, E. A. (2021). Neuroaesthetics. In S. Della Sala (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Behavioral Neuroscience, 2nd edition (pp. 661-670). Amsterdam: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-809324-5.24104-7.
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Isik, A. I., & Vessel, E. A. (2021). From visual perception to aesthetic appeal: Brain responses to aesthetically appealing natural landscape movies. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience,15: 676032. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2021.676032.
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Welke, D., Purton, I., & Vessel, E. A. (2021). Inspired by art: Higher aesthetic appeal elicits increased felt inspiration in a creative writing task (Advance online publication). Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. doi:10.1037/aca0000393.
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Botvinik-Nezer, R., Holzmeister, F., Camerer, C. F., Dreber, A., Huber, J., Johannesson, M., Kirchler, M., Iwanir, R., Mumford, J. A., Adcock, R. A., Avesani, P., Baczkowski, B. M., Bajracharya, A., Bakst, L., Ball, S., Barilari, M., Bault, N., Beaton, D., Beitner, J., Benoit, R. G., Berkers, R. M. W. J., Bhanji, J. P., Biswal, B. B., Bobadilla-Suarez, S., Bortolini, T., Bottenhorn, K. L., Bowring, A., Braem, S., Brooks, H. R., Brudner, E. G., Calderon, C. B., Camilleri, J. A., Castrellon, J. J., Cecchetti, L., Cieslik, E. C., Cole, Z. J., Collignon, O., Cox, R. W., Cunningham, W. A., Czoschke, S., Dadi, K., Davis, C. P., Luca, A. D., Delgado, M. R., Demetriou, L., Dennison, J. B., Di, X., Dickie, E. W., Dobryakova, E., Donnat, C. L., Dukart, J., Duncan, N. W., Durnez, J., Eed, A., Eickhoff, S. B., Erhart, A., Fontanesi, L., Fricke, G. M., Fu, S., Galván, A., Gau, R., Genon, S., Glatard, T., Glerean, E., Goeman, J. J., Golowin, S. A. E., González-García, C., Gorgolewski, K. J., Grady, C. L., Green, M. A., Moreira, J. F. G., Guest, O., Hakimi, S., Hamilton, J. P., Hancock, R., Handjaras, G., Harry, B. B., Hawco, C., Herholz, P., Herman, G., Heunis, S., Hoffstaedter, F., Hogeveen, J., Holmes, S., Hu, C.-P., Huettel, S. A., Hughes, M. E., Iacovella, V., Iordan, A. D., Isager, P. M., Isik, A. I., Jahn, A., Johnson, M. R., Johnstone, T., Joseph, M. J. E., Juliano, A. C., Kable, J. W., Kassinopoulos, M., Koba, C., Kong, X.-Z., Koscik, T. R., Kucukboyaci, N. E., Kuhl, B. A., Kupek, S., Laird, A. R., Lamm, C., Langner, R., Lauharatanahirun, N., Lee, H., Lee, S., Leemans, A., Leo, A., Lesage, E., Li, F., Li, M. Y. C., Lim, P. C., Lintz, E. N., Liphardt, S. W., Vermeer, A. B. L., Love, B. C., Mack, M. L., Malpica, N., Marins, T., Maumet, C., McDonald, K., McGuire, J. T., Melero, H., Leal, A. S. M., Meyer, B., Meyer, K. N., Mihai, G., Mitsis, G. D., Moll, J., Nielson, D. M., Nilsonne, G., Notter, M. P., Olivetti, E., Onicas, A. I., Papale, P., Patil, K. R., Peelle, J. E., Pérez, A., Pischedda, D., Poline, J.-B., Prystauka, Y., Ray, S., Reuter-Lorenz, P. A., Reynolds, R. C., Ricciardi, E., Rieck, J. R., Rodriguez-Thompson, A. M., Romyn, A., Salo, T., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., Sanz-Morales, E., Schlichting, M. L., Schultz, D. H., Shen, Q., Sheridan, M. A., Silvers, J. A., Skagerlund, K., Smith, A., Smith, D. V., Sokol-Hessner, P., Steinkamp, S. R., Tashjian, S. M., Thirion, B., Thorp, J. N., Tinghög, G., Tisdall, L., Tompson, S. H., Toro-Serey, C., Tresols, J. J. T., Tozzi, L., Truong, V., Turella, L., van Veer, A. E. ‘., Verguts, T., Vettel, J. M., Vijayarajah, S., Vo, K., Wall, M. B., Weeda, W. D., Weis, S., White, D. J., Wisniewski, D., Xifra-Porxas, A., Yearling, E. A., Yoon, S., Yuan, R., Yuen, K. S. L., Zhang, L., Zhang, X., Zosky, J. E., Nichols, T. E., & Schonberg, R. A. P. &. T. (2020). Variability in the analysis of a single neuroimaging dataset by many teams. Nature,582, 84-88. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2314-9.
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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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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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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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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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Vessel, E. A. (2019). How Do Aesthetic Experiences Function in the Brain? doi:10.21036/LTPUB10774.
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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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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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