Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Table of Contents

About the Field of Neuroaesthetics

What is the definition of neuroaesthetics?

Neuroaesthetics received its formal definition in 2002 as the scientific study of the neural bases for the contemplation and creation of a work of art. The definition has since evolved to include aesthetic experiences beyond the arts, with Pearce and colleagues defining neuroaesthetics as “the cognitive neuroscience of aesthetic experience.”

What is the definition of applied neuroaesthetics?

The International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) is working to convene and formalize the field of applied neuroaesthetics. We define applied neuroaesthetics as the scientific study of how the brain responds to the arts and aesthetic experiences for the purpose of improving biological, psychological, social/cultural or spiritual outcomes for individuals or populations. Applied neuroaesthetics includes and extends empirical aesthetics. 

The psychology of aesthetics involves the “study of our interactions with artworks; our reactions to paintings, literature, poetry, music, movies, and performances; our experiences of beauty and ugliness, our preferences and dislikes; and our everyday perceptions of things in our world—of natural and built environments, design objects, consumer products, and of course, people.”

When we use the term “the arts and aesthetic experiences,” we acknowledge the full spectrum of sensory, perceptual, or expressive experiences, including Visual Arts, Literary Arts, Performing Arts, Music, Dance & Movement, Media Arts, Traditional Handcrafts, Architecture & Design, Natural Environments, and Cultural Experiences.

What is the definition of neuroarts?

Neuroarts is a complementary term developed as part of The NeuroArts Blueprint, a groundbreaking initiative led by the IAM Lab and the Aspen Institute’s Health, Medicine and Society Program. Neuroarts is a simpler, more direct way to discuss with diverse audiences how aesthetic experiences and the arts measurably change the brain and body.

How has the field of neuroaesthetics evolved?

The first studies using fMRI to identify neural responses to art were published in the early 2000s, and they shifted assessments from observational data to biological information. Since that time, advances in brain imaging and non-invasive biomarkers have been rapidly accelerating. From sensory, motor, and reward systems to cognition and neuroplasticity, we now know more than ever about the brain’s responses to the arts and aesthetic experiences.

Research shows the arts and our environment have the power to shape our biology. Yet, we are only beginning to understand the full potential of the arts and aesthetic experiences to improve our health, wellbeing, learning. The field of neuroaesthetics is expanding and beginning to translate our empirical understanding of the arts influence over the brain into interventions that address real-world issues. IAM Lab brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers, practitioners and funders to advance that knowledge, and figure out how to best apply it.

Among the many things the field is discovering, we now know that music lowers blood pressure, pain, and anxiety and improves mood, memory, learning, and focus. Aesthetic experiences like spending time in nature have similar restorative effects, reducing stress levels, boosting mood and relieving anxiety. Beholding art also increases self-reflection, and studies indicate that theater experiences foster perspective-taking and empathy.

How do I pursue an education in neuroaesthetics?

Because the field is emerging, there is no comprehensive course of study offered at this time.  We are working on it! 

However, there are programs and courses around the world that address different aspects of the field. Here are some opportunities that may be relevant to you:

  1. University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine
  2. USC Brain and Cognitive Science
  3. UPenn Center for Neuroaesthetics
  4. Lesley University Institute for Arts & Health 
  5. Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
  6. Goldsmiths – University of London: Psychology of the Arts, Neuroaesthetics & Creativity
  7. University College London

You may also be interested in our Neuroaesthetics Overview webinar.

About The International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab)

What is the IAM Lab’s mission?

The mission of the IAM Lab is to amplify human potential.

What is IAM Lab’s strategy for fulfilling its mission?

We work to fulfill IAM Lab’s mission in three main ways: building the field of neuroaesthetics; establishing a neuroaesthetics community; and designing and testing a translational approach. 

Building the field of neuroaesthetics

We bring together the best minds across the fields of brain science, health, architecture, music and art to create a common language and agenda for the neuroaesthetics field that’s focused on improving health, wellbeing, and learning. We define and communicate the landscape of neuroaesthetics and the many applications of related research. 

Establishing a neuroaesthetics community

IAM Lab is a place to access content and ideas for using the arts and aesthetic experiences to better understand–and ultimately improve–how people live in the world. We amplify expert voices, convene diverse stakeholders, and foster dialogue about pressing topics.

Designing and testing a translational approach

IAM Lab is accelerating the role that arts + mind approaches can play in solving intractable health problems such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, chronic stress, PTSD, and autism. Using the Impact Thinking model, we bring together practitioners and researchers to collaboratively develop research approaches that meet their needs. We equip our partners with new capacity, tools, and resources to evaluate the impact of their efforts and ultimately replicate and scale best practices.

What is IAM Lab’s position in the field of neuroaesthetics?

With the field at a true inflection point, IAM Lab and our colleagues are expanding the definition of neuroaesthetics to understand not just the human response to the arts and aesthetic experiences, but the broader implications and applications for society. This translational approach brings together a range of disciplines to examine the evidence and develop arts-based solutions that address real-world problems. Among the networks and communities we are working to connect are researchers, practitioners, clinicians, funders, and policy makers who are interested in solving complex problems across health, wellbeing, and learning.

How can I get information about the IAM Lab’s news, publications, and/or resources?

How can I get a copy of any of the IAM Lab’s publications?

Our materials are available in printable format here.

How do I make a press or media inquiry?

Please contact our Communications team. In order to expedite a response, please let us know of any timing considerations or acceptable channels for providing you the requested information (e.g., email vs. phone interview).

Where can I get information about upcoming events?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of our work is being conducted virtually so we do not have any in-person events scheduled at this time.  To receive notification about future events, you may subscribe to IAM Lab updates here and/or follow us on Twitter.

Is the IAM Lab accepting applications for jobs or internships?

While we are not currently filling any positions, please feel free to submit your contact information so we can add you to our database and keep you updated on IAM Lab’s latest projects, openings, and developments.

References

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  2. Solso, R. L. (2000). The cognitive neuroscience of art: a preliminary fMRI observation. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7(8-9), 75-86.
  3. do Amaral, M. A. S., Neto, M. G., de Queiroz, J. G., Martins-Filho, P. R. S., Saquetto, M. B., & Carvalho, V. O. (2016). Effect of music therapy on blood pressure of individuals with hypertension: A systematic review and Meta-analysis. International journal of cardiology, 214, 461-464.
  4. Lee, J. H. (2016). The effects of music on pain: a meta-analysis. Journal of music therapy, 53(4), 430-477.
  5. Lunde, S. J., Vuust, P., Garza-Villarreal, E. A., & Vase, L. (2019). Music-induced analgesia: how does music relieve pain?. Pain, 160(5), 989-993.

  6. Fancourt, D., Ockelford, A., & Belai, A. (2014). The psychoneuroimmunological effects of music: A systematic review and a new model. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 36, 15-26.
  7. Knight, W. E., & Rickard, N. S. (2001). Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females. Journal of music therapy, 38(4), 254-272.
  8. Lundqvist, L. O., Carlsson, F., Hilmersson, P., & Juslin, P. N. (2009). Emotional responses to music: Experience, expression, and physiology. Psychology of music, 37(1), 61-90.
  9. Van Goethem, A., & Sloboda, J. (2011). The functions of music for affect regulation. Musicae scientiae, 15(2), 208-228.
  10. George, E. M., & Coch, D. (2011). Music training and working memory: An ERP study. Neuropsychologia, 49(5), 1083-1094
  11. Jaschke, A. C., Honing, H., & Scherder, E. J. (2018). Longitudinal analysis of music education on executive functions in primary school children. Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 103.
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  13. Olafsdottir, G., Cloke, P., Schulz, A., Van Dyck, Z., Eysteinsson, T., Thorleifsdottir, B., & Vögele, C. (2020). Health benefits of walking in nature: A randomized controlled study under conditions of real-life stress. Environment and Behavior, 52(3), 248-274.
  14. Capaldi, C. A., Dopko, R. L., & Zelenski, J. M. (2014). The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 976.
  15. Shanahan, D. F., Bush, R., Gaston, K. J., Lin, B. B., Dean, J., Barber, E., & Fuller, R. A. (2016). Health benefits from nature experiences depend on dose. Scientific reports, 6, 28551.
  16. Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41-50.
  17. Freedberg, D., & Gallese, V. (2007). Motion, emotion and empathy in esthetic experience. Trends in cognitive sciences, 11(5), 197-203.
  18. Goldstein, T. R., & Winner, E. (2012). Enhancing empathy and theory of mind. Journal of cognition and development, 13(1), 19-37.