The Neurobiology of Aesthetic Experiences and the Significance of Beauty

Abstract : The experience of beauty, whether derived from sensory sources such as visual art or music, or from highly cognitive ones such as mathematics, correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain, field A1 of medial orbito-frontal cortex (mOFC). This raises important questions about the role and uses of beauty not only in our daily experience but also in our efforts to understand the structure of the Universe in which our brains have evolved.

Brief Profile : Semir Zeki is a Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London (UCL). His research focuses on how the visual brain is organized, using imaging and psychophysical techniques. This work is supported by a programme grant from the Wellcome Trust. A further Strategic Award in Neuroesthetics from the Wellcome Trust supports other interests in the general field of neuroesthetics, studying the relationship between brain activity and aesthetic appreciation and artistic creativity. The work in general involves a multi-disciplinary approach that brings together neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and those in the humanities, to address questions that are of deep concern to science and society.

1964: BSc in Anatomy, UCL
1967: PhD in Anatomy, UCL
1980-1985 Henry Head Research Fellow of the Royal Society
1981-present Professor of Neurobiology at UCL
Visiting scientist at various institutions worldwide.

Recognitions and Awards:

Fellow of the Royal Society (1990)
Fellow of the Academia Europea (1993)
Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (1995)
Foreign member of the American Philosophical Society
Prix Science pour l’Art (LVMH, Paris 1991)
Rank Prize in opto-electronics (Rank Foundation, 1992)
Zotterman Prize (Swedish Physiological Society, 1993)
Betty and David Koetser Foundation Prize (1997)
Electronic Imaging Award by International Society for Optical Engineering (2001)
King Faisal International Prize in Science (2004)
Erasmus Medal Academia Europea (2008)