Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Neurobiology and the Humanities

I want to point to this open access article in Neuron by Semir Zeki, a well known visual neuroanatomist who has addressed in particular visual artists - who, in engaging representations of form and color, explore the brain with techniques that are unique to them. Here is an early clip from the relatively brief article, which I think you might enjoy reading, that proceeds to consider the experience, significance, and uses of beauty.:
Paul C├ęzanne’s preoccupation, and artistic experimentation, with how color modulates form is but a variant of the neurobiological question of how the separate representations of form and color are integrated in the brain to give us a unitary percept of both. The experiments of Picasso and Braque in the early, analytic, phase of cubism—of how a form maintains its identity in spite of wide variations in the context in which it is viewed—resolves itself scientifically into the neurobiological problem of form constancy. The quest of Piet Mondrian for the “constant truths concerning forms” is an artistic version of the question of what the neural building blocks of all forms are (often presumed to be the orientation-selective cells of the visual cortex), while kinetic art, which sought to represent motion artistically, reached conclusions that are consistent with conclusions reached later by neurobiology.


  1. ian stevens7:20 AM

    would love to read it but seems the access is linked to American universities ? Doesn't come up with open access here from here?

  2. Sorry, my bad. The link is working now. Thanks for pointing it out.