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Neuroaesthetics: A Public Symposium

Talks & Tours / Centennial

Saturday, September 3, 1 – 5pm


Paul Cézanne. The Large Bathers (detail), c. 1894–1906. BF934

Free; registration required.

About the Event

Neuroaesthetics is an emerging discipline within cognitive neuroscience that seeks to understand the biological bases of aesthetic experiences. In the early 20th century, Albert Barnes, trained in medicine and science, sought to apply the rigors of the scientific method to analyzing art. The neurological and psychological science of aesthetics is a natural extension of Dr. Barnes’s effort.

This symposium will present some of the leading researchers working in the science of aesthetics speaking on topics such as creativity, dance, architecture, and education. Come learn the origins and history of the discipline and discover the directions it is taking.

Organized in collaboration with the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics.


Anjan Chatterjee

Dr. Chatterjee is professor of neurology, psychology, and architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and the founding director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics. He received his BA in philosophy from Haverford College and MD from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his neurology residency at the University of Chicago. The past chair of neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital, Dr. Chatterjee focuses on patients with cognitive disorders in his clinical practice. His research addresses neuroaesthetics, spatial cognition, language, and neuroethics. He wrote The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art and co-edited Brain, Beauty, and Art: Essays Bringing Neuroaesthetics in Focus; Neuroethics in Practice: Mind, Medicine, and Society; and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychology. He received the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology and the Rudolph Arnheim Prize for contributions to Psychology and the Arts by the American Psychological Association. He is a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Neuroethics Society and past president of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics and the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society.

William Perthes

Perthes is the Barnes Foundation’s Bernard C. Watson Director of Adult Education. With a background in philosophy and art history, Perthes is interested in the communicative potential of works of art, how everyday occurrences inform and affect art and aesthetic experiences, and the influence of deep engagement with works of art on viewers. His work explores the visual language of art through object-based empirical analysis. His recent research focuses on how experiencing works of art, both short- and long-term, can impact and inform the work of medical professionals. In addition, Perthes focuses on modernism in Europe and the United States and the abstract expressionist painter Robert Motherwell.

Aaron Kozbelt

Kozbelt (PhD, The University of Chicago) is professor and chairperson of the Psychology Department at Brooklyn College and also has an appointment at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His research focuses on various topics related to creativity and cognition in the fine arts, including creativity over the lifespan, the evolutionary basis of aesthetics and creativity, the perceptual advantages of visual artists, and the psychology of humor. He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and is a co-editor of the 2018 Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (2nd ed.). He serves on several editorial boards and has received several national and international awards for his research.

Steven Brown

Brown is a cognitive neuroscientist working in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University in Canada. He obtained his PhD in the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University in New York and did postdoctoral research at the Pasteur Institute in Paris; Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm; University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio; and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. His research deals with the neural and evolutionary bases of the arts. He is co-editor of The Origins of Music (MIT Press) and Music and Manipulation (Berghahn Books) and author of The Unification of the Arts (Oxford University Press).

Ellen Winner

Winner is professor emerita of psychology at Boston College and senior research associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has written books about the psychology of art and art education, most recently How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration, Studio Thinking 3: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education (co-authored), and An Uneasy Guest in the Schoolhouse: Art Education from Colonial Times to a Promising Future. Most of her articles can be downloaded on her website,

Pablo Tinio

Tinio is chair of the Department of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University, NJ, where he also heads the Creativity and Aesthetics Lab. His work focuses on the psychology of aesthetics, creativity, and the arts; arts and aesthetics in education; and learning and engagement in cultural institutions. He co-edited the Cambridge Handbook of the Psychology of Aesthetics and the Arts and was past editor of the APA journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Tinio has been awarded the Frank X. Barron Award and the Daniel E. Berlyne Award for Outstanding Early Career Achievement in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts by the APA and the Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field by an Early Career Scientist from the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics.

Beatriz Calvo-Merino

Calvo-Merino is a cognitive neuroscientist trained at University College London and Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Her research focuses on understanding the influence of the observer’s visual and motor experience in action, emotion, and aesthetic perception. Collaborations with dancers are a core element of her research. In 2020, she won the early career prize awarded by the British Association of Cognitive Neuroscience, and in 2018, she received the Baumgarten Award from the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics for her contributions to the aesthetic field. She is currently director of postgraduate programs in clinical social and cognitive neuroscience (MSc) and psychology and social neuroscience (PhD) at City University of London.

Oshin Vartanian

Vartanian received his PhD in experimental psychology from the University of Maine. He is co-editor of Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts and past editor of Empirical Studies of the Arts. His co-edited volumes include Neuroaesthetics (Baywood Publishing), Neuroscience of Creativity (MIT Press), Neuroscience of Decision Making (Psychology Press), The Cambridge Handbook of the Neuroscience of Creativity (Cambridge University Press) and most recently The Oxford Handbook of Empirical Aesthetics(Oxford University Press). His main areas of interest include the cognitive and neural bases of aesthetics and creativity.