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SoA Agenda

BSi Speakers Series: Perceptual Neuroscience and Aesthetics

AGENDA: October 20-21, 2010

October 20th:           American Visionary Art Museum

8:30-9:00 am           Registration/Continental Breakfast

9:00 -9:15 am          Welcome, Jack Griffin

    Greetings, Ron Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University

9:15-9:30 am           Video Presentation:  Form Representation and Aesthetics

Collaborations:       Theory in Practice  (moderated by Jon Hamilton)

9:30-11:00 am         Visual Art/Color
                                    Jeremy Nathans, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Margaret S. Livingstone, Harvard University
                                    William Stoehr, Painter

Humans have a highly developed visual sense.  The human brain can analyze a complex scene within a fraction of a second, simultaneously assessing form, color, motion, and depth, and then recombining these attributes to produce a unified perceptual experience.  Why did the neural circuits that evolved to recognize food, family members, and predators also evolve to let us enjoy sunsets and paintings?  What does our still-rudimentary understanding of the neuronal circuitry involved in vision tell us about abstraction in art and how we interpret drawings and paintings?  We will explore these and related issues with an emphasis on the perception of color and form. We will also explore the diversity of visual experience across different species and between members of our own species.            

11:15-1:15 pm         Neural Mechanisms of Musical Improvisation
                                    Charles Limb, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Mike Pope, Jazz Musician
                                    Marin Alsop, Music Director, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
                                    Pat Metheny, Jazz Musician    

Although creativity is an essential component of all art forms, the neural mechanisms that give rise to creative behavior remain poorly understood. In this session, we will discuss scientific research on the neural basis of creativity in the musical domain. We will focus on jazz music, which is characterized by improvisation as its core element, as well as conducting, a type of musical activity that takes place in a state of 'flow' often felt to be essential for creative thinking. The goal of the session will be to identify key facets of creative behavior in music for further scientific study, based on a collaborative discussion between a neuroscientist, conductor, and jazz musician.

1:15-2:00 pm           Lunch

2:00-3:30 pm           Spatial Representation and Architecture
David Foster, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Amy Shelton, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Jim Knierim, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Tom Kundig, Olson Kundig Architects
                                    Russell Epstein, University of Pennsylvania

Space is a fundamental component of our experience, framing our movements and providing a logical context within which we remember the past and imagine the future. New research in neuroscience tells us that the brain uses exquisitely specialized systems to represent the space around us – a space increasingly likely to have been designed by architects.  In this session we will host a conversation between neuroscientists and architects, and address such questions as: Can the brain’s representation of space inform architectural design? What design principles do architects use that may reflect intuitively or empirically neuroscientific principles? What can both disciplines, intimately related to space, learn from each other?

3:45-5:15 pm           Harmonic Representation and Musical Pitch
                                    Xiaoqin Wang, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Robert Zatorre, McGill University
                                    Leon Fleisher, Pianist

This session will bring together a cognitive neuroscientist, a neurophysiologist and a musician to explore how the brain processes music. The questions we will be discussing in this session include, for example, How does the brain represent musical pitch? What are neural mechanisms responsible for processing harmonics and rhythms in music? What are "rules" imposed by the brain to guide the way we compose and appreciate music?

5:30 pm                     Cocktail Reception
                                    Gary Thomas, Peabody Institute
                                    Tour of “What Makes Us Smile” exhibit

October 21st:           Baltimore Museum of Art

8:00-8:30 am           Continental Breakfast

                                    Welcome, Jack Griffin

    Greetings, Lloyd Minor, Provost, Johns Hopkins University 

8:30-9:45 am           Motor System and Dance
                                    Amy Bastian, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Scott Grafton, UCSB
                                    Jonah Bokaer, Choreographer

This session will examine the neural mechanisms for learning and performing complex movements, and will relate this information to art of dance.  Questions that will be addressed include: What elements of movement does the brain control to make a movement look graceful versus awkward? Are shared brain mechanisms used when performing versus observing dance?  How can we extract emotional content by observing dance?

9:45-11:00 am         Form Perception and Design
                                    Ed Connor, Johns Hopkins University
                                    Anjan Chatterjee, University of Pennsylvania
                                    David Hess, Sculptor

This session will explore the hypothesis that visual aesthetics are influenced in a fundamental way by the nature of neural representations. One specific example to be discussed is the relationship between sculptural aesthetics and brain representations of 3D object shape.

11:15-1:15 pm         The Future of a New Field: Questions, Directions and Debate
                                    Moderators: Tom Hall and Jack Griffin

  • Gary Vikan, Director, The Walters Art Museum
  • Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroesthetics, University College London
  • Michael Hersch, Chairman, Department of Composition, Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University
  • Steven Hsiao, Professor of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University
  • James Olson, Olson Kundig Architects
  • John Eberhard, Founding President Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture
  • Michael Miller, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • Mary Ann Mears, Artist, Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance
  • Barbara Landau, Professor and Chair of Cognitive Science, Johns Hopkins University
  • Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University

    Closing Remarks
    Jack Griffin and Rick Huganir
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