Departmental Seminar Series: Dr Ed Vessel
Feelings of beauty and of “being moved” are fundamental to our interactions with the visual world, yet the processes that support such aesthetic experiences are poorly understood. Using behavioral and brain imaging tools, our lab probes the psychological and neural processes that support aesthetic appreciation. Previously, we reported that the default-mode network (DMN) is active during the viewing of paintings rated as highly aesthetically moving. This finding is surprising given that the DMN has been implicated in internally-directed thought processes and is typically suppressed when a person attends to an external stimulus. In two subsequent fMRI investigations, we further probe the nature of the DMN response to visual aesthetic experiences. In the first, multivariate classification methods were used to test whether the DMN contains a representations of aesthetic appeal that are specific to particular visual aesthetic domains (e.g. artwork, architecture, natural landscapes), or alternatively, are domain-general. In the second, the temporal dynamics of the DMN response were explored by presenting artworks of varying duration and measuring continuous behavioral responses. These experiments suggest that the DMN has access to information about aesthetic appeal that is domain-general, and uses it to guide ongoing engagement with the visual world.
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.
Departmental Seminar Series
Dates & times
If you are attending an event and need the College to help with any mobility requirements you may have, please contact the event organiser in advance to ensure we can accommodate your needs.