Lecture | Gabrielle Starr | Feeling Beauty: The Sister Arts and the Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience
CMBC Lecture held September 27, 2013 . Why do we unite such different kinds of objects as music, literature and painting together under the rubric of art? The tradition of the sister arts since Plato has been built on such connections, but perhaps it ought to seem strange that we associate objects and events that appeal to us so differently, through different senses and in different forms. Understanding aesthetics depends on our being able to comprehend why we do so, why a painting by Van Gogh, a poem by Keats, and a fugue by Bach are moving in similar ways. As I explore what makes this is possible (the neuroscience of emotion and reward, the functioning of imagery, and the operations of the default mode network, I arrive at an answer to my second question, which is what kind of knowledge do aesthetic pleasures bring? Ultimately, I argue that aesthetics offers a model for understanding how the brain responds to unpredictable rewards, and how novelty helps drive our mental economies.