cover art for YOUR BRAIN ON BEAUTY: Welcome to the world of neuroaesthetics...


YOUR BRAIN ON BEAUTY: Welcome to the world of neuroaesthetics...

Season 1, Ep. 16

In this podcast neurologist and academic Anjan Chatterjee opens up the world of neuroaesthetics, from basic definitions and a taxonomy of aesthetics, including individual responses to the built environment, to neurological correlates of our responses to beauty. The influence of expectation and beliefs regarding value of objects/works of art are also touched upon, and the way neuroimaging results reflect this effect. Some current projects of the Penn Centre for Neuroaesthetics also get a mention, including a study using the arts in a structured way to aid recovery and readjustment of veterans.



Anjan Chatterjee, Professor of Neurology, Psychology and Architecture, University of Pennsylvania and Head of the Penn Centre for Neuroaesthetics (the extraordinary range of projects can be viewed here )

Ken Barrett, visual artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist:

Opening and closing music: Prelude to the opera Brainland, composed by Stephen Brown. 

Brainland the opera website:

Sketch by Ken Barrett.

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  • 20. FEELING GROOVY: Exploring the brain's response to music.

    Peter Vuust is that rare combintion - a professional musician and composer, and a professor of neuroscience investigating how our brain responds to music. This wide ranging conversation includes why we humans are so attracted and responsive to music, the link between groove and predictive cognition, the Mozart effect, the tingle/chill factor in music, and how to get more out of atonal music. As if that weren’t enough, Peter shares a track of his upcoming album (he can be seen and heard in several bands at the Aarhus Jazz Festival in July). Participants:Peter Vuust, musician, composer, professor of neuroscience and Head of the Department of Music and the Brain at Aarhus University, Denmark. Platman, writer and retired physican.Ken Barrett, artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist/psychophysiologist. : 'Homage to Keith', composed by Peter Vuust, played by the Peter Vuust Quartet (2024, with permission).Portrait sketch by KB.Brainland the opera website:
  • 19. OBJECTS WITH SOUL: The strange power of puppetry.

    Those animated objects, puppets, can work powerfully on our emotions and generate empathy, seemingly tapping into some very basic part of our psyche and, perhaps, neurology. Which is the main reason why we are devoting two podcasts to this subject. In this podcast Claudia Orenstein, a leading authority on puppets and physical theatre worldwide discusses the various ways objects are deployed in performance, including their use in ritual, education and entertainment, for adults as well as children. A number of examples are described as she shares her lifelong passion for the subject and there is also an interesting theoretical discussion as to why this and other types of animation have become more popular this century. Next month on the podcast: the psychology and neuropsychology of puppetry. Participants: Claudia Orenstein, Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and Graduate Centre CUNY, USA (who also launched a new journal of puppetry in January). Ken Barrett, visual artist, writer and former neuropsychiatrist. For more about Claudia Orenstein's book Reading the Puppet Stage: is a website for The plastic bag store, which I mentioned in the conversation. Blind Summit’s Paper Story. Bread and Puppet theatre’s website: William Kentridge on Wozzeck Music by Stephen Brown: Prelude to Brainland.Brainland the opera: by KB.
  • 18. NO HAMMER NEEDED: The wonderful world of neurointeractive art.

    Since completing her degree in interactive art 30 years ago Luciana Haill has worked at the cutting edge of the field. She recounts how childhood meningitis got her interested in the brain and Grey Walter's 'The Living Brain' the EEG - she sold her car in order to buy a portable EEG recorder, her tool for exploring the boundary of consciousness. More recently, her obsession with lost historical artefacts led her to create the Arts Council funded 'Apparitions' app - the app recreates lost landmarks when a phone is pointed at the original site (such as the 900 foot St Leonards pier, demolished over 70 years ago - and it really does, as I saw last weekend). Future projects explore aspects of nostalgia and grief.Participants: Luciana Haill, visual and mixed media artist. Formerly Research Artist Sussex University, Department of Informatics, and Department of Psychology and Social Sciences, Greenwich University. https://lucianahaill.wordpress.comKen Barrett, visual artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist. The following links relate to the projects discussed: by Stephen Brown: Extract from Brainland Act 1 Scene 2.Brainland the opera: by KB.
  • 17. BRAVE NEW WORLDS : Your neural interface awaits...

    In this podcast Professor Andrew Jackson talks about how he came to be, literally, at the cutting edge between the human central nervous system and new neuro-technologies. After explaining ‘neural interface’, he discusses how the field is starting to change the management of paralysis and epilepsy. There is also an interesting discussion about the effects of exhsiting current tech, including possible implications of Google's acquisition of FitBit and how social media is already effectively modifies behaviour. He also shares a lockdown project – 'closed loop' music generated by and modified in real time by brain oscillations (with some samples included). Participants:Andrew Jackson, Professor of Neural Interfaces, University of Newcastle, UK Barrett, visual artist, writer and former neuropsychiatrist/psychophysiologist. Closed loop music generated by Andrew Jackson’s brain (with permission).Brainland the opera website: by KB.

    In this podcast we give the brain a rest and take an excursion into the music world. Trevor Ford, Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, talks to Stephen Brown about his journey from the East End of London to a career as a professional flautist, organist and choir master (an organiser of the annual 'Messiah from Scratch' at the Albert Hall) alongside, accountancy, business management and editing. They discuss the benefits he and Stephen gained from the free music tuition available to children of working class families in the East End in the 1960s and the importance of giving the next generation musical opportunities, but also survival skills necessary for a life in the music jungle.Participants:Trevor Ford, professor, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. Brown, cellist, composer (with the permission): Handel's Messiah were sung by the Really Big Chorus accompanied by the English Festival Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in 2014.Brainland the opera website: by Ken Barrett.
  • 14. THE VITAL SPARK: Part 1 - Tourette syndrome and creativity.

    'The Vital Spark' is an occasional series exploring different facets of creativity.Hugh Rickards, in conversation with Stephen Brown and Ken Barrett, talks about Tourette's syndrome, including a suggested association with increased levels of creativity. After outlining why he was first attracted to Neuropsychiatry (Oliver Sacks' fault) and to do research on this condition, Hugh goes over what we mean by Tourette's, it's overlap with OCD and the little we known about it's causes. We unpack possible links to creativity, performer Tourettes Hero gets a mention (see link below), Hugh and Ken share their own experience of tics.Participants: Hugh Rickards, Consultant and Honorary Professor of Neuropsychiatry, National Centre for Mental Health, Birmingham, UK. http// Brown, cellist, composer and retired professor of neuropsychiatry: Barrett, visual artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist: More about Tourette's is here: here: Hero : and closing music: Prelude to the opera Brainland, composed by Stephen Brown. Brainland the opera website: by Ken Barrett.
  • 13. COMPUTATIONAL PSYCHIATRY IS IN THE BUILDING: Brain information processing and the future of psychiatry.

    In this podcast Ken Barrett is in conversation with Professor David Redish. David explains what is meant by ‘computational psychiatry’ and the concept of ‘computational breakdown', with a great falling bridge analogy, before going on to outline how this approach is being applied to addiction and depression. Our discussion ranges over aspects of memory, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) and sleep, and much else, before considering possible pitfalls of the approach.Participants: A David Redish, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota. Barrett, visual artist, writer and retired clinical neuropsychiatrist. Music: Prelude to the opera Brainland, composed by Stephen Brown. Brainland the opera website: by Ken Barrett. 
  • 12. BRAINHACKING: Ethical and legal challenges posed by new neurotechnologies.

    In this podcast Ken Barrett is in conversation with Marcello Ienca, professor of the ethics of articicial intelligence. We discuss the ethical challenges of new neurotechnologices, including brain-computer interfaces and other wearable and implanted devices. Are our brains about to be at risk of being ‘hacked’ or ‘jacked’ and what steps should be taken to safeguard us? Marcello outlines and unpacks four human rights he believes should be protected: the right to cognitive liberty, mental privacy, mental integrity and psychological continuity.  Participants: Marcello Ienca, Professor of Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience.Deputy Director, Institute for Ethics and History of Medicine, Technische Universität München. Group Leader - Intelligent Systems Ethics Group - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Barrett, visual artist, writer and retired clinical neuropsychiatrist. interesting article by Marcello Ienca on this subject: Music: Prelude to the opera Brainland, composed by Stephen Brown.Brainland the opera website: sketch by Ken Barrett