Hello readers, my name is Ruchir Shah, and I am the newest contributor to the Mind the Brain blog. I am a neuroscientist by training, but have a passion for story telling as well. I will be contributing a regular neuroscience podcast series to this blog, and I want to thank my fellow Mind the Brain bloggers for the opportunity to present my work. I’m delighted to be joining this excellent group of scientists!
For my first podcast in this series, I talk to Bevil Conway, who is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Wellesley College. Bevil has studied visual art as well as the mechanisms of visual perception, and has an active interest in the intersection between those two disciplines.In this podcast, we discuss the nascent field of “Neuroaesthetics”, and whether neuroscience can actually help us understand our experiences of beauty and aesthetics.
The term “aesthetics” means different things to different people, and from a neuroscience perspective it can involve sensory perception, emotional processing, attention, decision-making, and reward. We discuss how philosophers and neuroscientists have attempted to define this concept, and what we currently do and do not know about the neural basis for experiencing beauty. We then dive into a neuroscientific analysis of artwork, and whether we can glean any universal principles of aesthetics from such an approach. Finally, we discuss some fascinating case studies of how specific brain diseases or lesions can actually enhance art production, and what this might mean for how we perceive and experience beauty.
You can listen to and download the podcast here.