Penn Medicine has launched the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics.
Neuroaesthetics is the biological study aiming to understand how humans process beauty and art.
The center, led by Anjan Chatterjee, MD, chair of the department of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital and the Elliott Professor of Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, aims to advance the understanding of human nature and preferences with consumer choices, the principles of design, and the appreciation and production of art.
The center assembles an interdisciplinary, university-wide team of experts in neuroscience, psychology, business, architecture, and the arts.
“Even though aesthetics affects countless decisions—from what you wear in the morning to who you date—little of the psychological and neural underpinnings of aesthetics are known. People’s aesthetic choices makes them feel better and affects how others treat them,” Chatterjee says in a news release. “This center allows us to bring together, build upon, and advance knowledge of the mysterious world of aesthetic experiences. Our goal is to evolve basic and translational research, educate the next generation of scholars, and serve as a hub for creative experts interested in the nature and neural basis of beauty, art, and architecture.”
The research center will focus on three programmatic elements: basic science, translational science, and communication. Experts across Penn will investigate the neural systems that underlie aesthetic experiences and choices, answering provocative questions dealing with how the pleasure of beauty differs from primary pleasures like food, whether beauty affects values such as morality, and how context and education affects aesthetic experiences. For instance, is there a common neural currency to beauty? The center will also look into the applications of neuroaesthetics to medicine and culture, uncovering how aesthetic experiences can be used therapeutically—for example, would exposure to art and aesthetics enhance medical student training?
Additionally, the center has a goal to expand its hub of specialists to host scholars in the humanities and artists in residence. “These are early days in the discipline of neuroaesthetics and this new center will shape the field for years to come,” says Frances E. Jensen, MD, FACP, chair, department of Neurology.