The Brain on Screen

Vier Filme – Vier Vorträge – Ein Akteur: Das menschliche Gehirn

Was passiert in unserem Gehirn, wenn wir Filme schauen? Wie verarbeitet das menschliche Gehirn Filme – und warum ist das Sehen von Filmen genussvoll? Können Filme und das Filmpublikum überhaupt interessante Objekte der neurowissenschaftlichen Forschung sein?

Diese und weitere Fragen stehen im Zentrum der Film- und Vortragsreihe „The Brain on Screen“, die das Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik gemeinsam mit dem DFF - Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum im März 2019 veranstaltet. An vier Dienstagen (5., 12., 19. und 26.03.2019) werden vier Experten jeweils eine Einführung in vier Filme geben, die aus neurowissenschaftlicher Perspektive interessant sind.

Während der anschließenden Film­vorführung hat das Publikum die Gelegenheit, hautnah mitzuerleben, wie neurowissenschaftliche Forschung zum Filmerleben aussehen kann.  Wer möchte, kann Teilnehmer in einer den Film begleitenden Studie werden.

The Brain on Screen“ bietet einen wissenschaftlichen und praktischen Einblick in ein spannendes Forschungsfeld und verwandelt das Gehirn selbst in einen Akteur.

Wenn Sie Interesse haben teilzunehmen, können Sie sich hier anmelden.




11 Uhr: Fachvortrag am Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, ArtLab Foyer

Edward A. Vessel (Frankfurt a.M.)

Dr. Vessel is a Senior Research Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA) in Frankfurt, Germany.


His research group uses behavioral and brain imaging techniques to 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.

Through his work and service, Dr. Vessel aims to elevate the international profile of neuroaesthetics research: he is a board member of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, and recently hosted a conference on Visual Neuroaesthetics at the MPIEA. He received his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Southern California and is former co-director of the New York University Artlab.


From "Being Moved" to Moving Images: Dynamics of Visual Aesthetic Experience and the Brain’s Default-Mode Network

Aesthetic experiences evolve over time, from fleeting first impressions to the savoring of memories long after the experience has faded from our senses. How is it that such experiences with the external world can reach within to deeply “move” us emotionally?


In this talk, I trace our efforts to understand the mental and neural processes that support aesthetically moving experiences. In early work, we measured static “snapshots” of brain activity while people viewed unchanging visual artworks. We found that when a person finds an artwork to be aesthetically “moving,” parts of the brain's “default-mode network" (DMN), typically associated with inwardly directed thought, are surprisingly active even though the focus lies on the outer world — the artwork. In an attempt to expand this static snapshot into an understanding of a dynamic process, we have set first our measurement, and now our stimulus, in motion. In several projects, we are collecting continuous measures of brain, body and behavior as people engage with both static and dynamic art forms (artworks, dance, music, film). The picture that is emerging from this ongoing work is one of a brain in motion: large-scale networks that dynamically reconfigure, allowing moving aesthetic experiences to affect the brain, and perhaps even the self, in ways that other experiences do not.


18 Uhr: Vorführung im Deutschen Filminstitut & Filmmuseum

Angst essen Seele auf

(R. W. Fassbinder, 1974)




11 Uhr: Fachvortrag am Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, ArtLab Foyer

Marie-Thérèse Forster (Frankfurt a.M.)

Marie-Thérèse Forster works as senior physician at the department of Neurosurgery at Goethe-University Frankfurt.


She studied medicine in Vienna and Paris, and began her neurosurgical residency in Geneva, from where she moved to Frankfurt in 2007. Her scientific focus lies on Neurooncology, Awake surgery, Imaging, Neuropsychology and Health Services Research.


Cutting between Beauty and Evil

As a neurosurgeon I am regularly confronted with patients suffering from brain tumors. Although maximized tumor resection most decisively influences patients' survival, preservation of function has to be the prime objective allowing patients to enjoy or even improve quality of life.


By awake surgery brain networks involved in language as well as sensorimotor, visual and neurocognitive functions can be mapped and preserved, additionally, insights into cerebral processes such as speaking or singing can be gained.

The lecture will provide the audience with an overview on glioma surgery, especially awake surgery, its performance, advantages, possibilities and constraints, and demonstrate, that cutting the evil may help patients to live a beautiful live, despite suffering from a still incurable brain tumor.


18 Uhr: Vorführung im Deutschen Filminstitut & Filmmuseum

Harold and Maude

(Hal Asby, 1971)




11 Uhr: Fachvortrag am Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, ArtLab Foyer

Vittorio Gallese (Parma)

Vittorio Gallese, MD and trained neurologist, is Professor of Psychobiology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Dept. of Medicine & Surgery of the University of Parma, Italy, Adjunct Senior Research Scholar, Dept. of Art History and Archeology, Columbia University, New York, USA and Einstein Fellow at the Berlin School of Mind & Brain of Humboldt University.


Cognitive neuroscientist, his research focuses on the relationship between the sensory-motor system and cognition by investigating the neurobiological basis of intersubjectivity, empathy, language and aesthetics. He is the author of more than 200 scientific publications and two books.


Being moved. The embodiment of moving images.

By exploiting the empirical approach of neuroscience and physiology, we can investigate the brain-body mechanisms characterizing our interactions with moving images, shedding new light on the functional mechanisms enabling their perceptual experience.


In so doing we can better understand some of the concepts we normally use when referring to film aesthetics and film experience. Embodied simulation, a new model of perception and cognition, can provide a new take on these issues, fostering a newly based dialogue between neuroscience and film theory. The variety of relations between body and film, implied by its experience, will be explored through the lens of embodied simulation.


18 Uhr: Vorführung im Deutschen Filminstitut & Filmmuseum

After Hours

(Martin Scorsese, 1985)




11 Uhr: Fachvortrag am Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, ArtLab Foyer

Pia Tikka (Tallinn)

Dr. Pia Tikka, is a professional filmmaker and EU Mobilitas Research Professor at the MEDIT Centre of Excellence, Tallinn University.


She holds the honorary title of Adjunct Professor of New Narrative Media at the University of Lapland, and is former director of Crucible Studio, Department of Media, Aalto University (2014-2017). A core member of the directory group of neuroscience research project aivoAALTO at the Aalto University (2010-2014), she is the principal investigator of NeuroCine research project since 2010 studying the neural basis of storytelling and creative imagination.

She has contributed to the neuroeconomics as a member of the advisory board in NeuroService project at the Laurea University of Applied Sciences, funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (2014–2015). As a filmmaker, she has directed two feature films, and her third feature film is in development. She is a Fellow of Life in the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image. Currently her Enactive Virtuality Lab leads research on enactive co-presence in immersive narrative environments.


Narrative Sense-Making – A Neurocinematic Approach

Cinematic narratives simulate everyday life in its situational and contextual complexity. On one hand, it is assumed that one’s comprehension of narratives relies on idiosyncratic life-experience, the rich multiplicity of lived-by world events, as argued by the theories of embodied mind.


On the other, naturalistic neuroimaging experiments have shown that viewers’ time-locked brain activations correlate to some extent when engaged with same narrative.

Consequently, using movies as stimuli in neuroimaging experiments provides a practical starting point for understanding how human mind makes sense of complex socio-emotional situations, and to what extent such cognitive efforts are intersubjectively shared.

The talk discusses observations of my NeuroCine research group on what might be called as “narrative brain”. In one of our fMRI studies, we identified specific story-content-related brain networks by comparing data collected from subjects viewing a film and others reading a film’s screenplay. We also studied differences in functional brain connectivity when watching a narrative drama film versus viewing a non-narrative experimental film. In yet another fMRI experiment we showed our subjects the full length film Memento (2000) to study functional differences between a group viewing a chronologically unfolding narrative against another watching unfolding of the puzzle film narrative. Further, this let us identify intersubjective brain activations related to specific time-locked moments of narrative reconstruction. In concluding, the talk outlines challenges and plausible directions of the future neurocinematics.


18 Uhr: Vorführung im Deutschen Filminstitut & Filmmuseum



Lola rennt  

(Tom Tykwer, 1998)