Beauty and the Brain: A Neural Approach to Aesthetics

January 23, 2010–April 11, 2010

Why do some works of art appeal so strongly to the human mind? Are artists really neuroscientists, trying to discover new and powerful ways to stimulate perceptual mechanisms in the brain? This collaboration between the Walters Art Museum and the Zanvyl Krieger Mind-Brain Institute at The Johns Hopkins University is a pioneering study in neuroesthetics, a new approach to the neural basis of the aesthetic experience.

Beauty and the Brain is both an exhibition and an experiment. Visitors will be invited to explore aesthetic spaces created by digitally morphing original works of art. Subject areas include modern abstract sculptures by renowned 20th-century artist Jean Arp. Responses from participants will be used to analyze how 3-D shape characteristics define aesthetic preference. The results will form the basis for experiments measuring aesthetic responses in the human brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging.

This exhibition is funded in part by The Johns Hopkins University Brain Science Institute.