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New Penn research hub sits at the intersection of brains and beauty

The Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics aims to “uncover the biological basis of aesthetics,” led by professor Anjan Chatterjee.

The brain. (Gif source unknown)

Neuroaesthetics is a scientific field that studies how your brain processes a piece of music or art — like, say, this mural of a squirrel munching on a SEPTA token.

To take a deeper look at the implications of how our brain grapples with beauty, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine just launched the country’s first research center focused on this subset of neuroscience: the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics.

“Even though aesthetics affects countless decisions — from what you wear in the morning to who you date — little of the psychological and neural underpinnings of aesthetics are known,” said Anjan Chatterjee, the neurology department chair at Penn Hospital tasked with leading the new research hub. “Our goal is to evolve basic and translational research, educate the next generation of scholars, and serve as a hub for creative experts interested in the nature and neural basis of beauty, art, and architecture.”

Experts across Penn will use the center to look at the neural systems driving aesthetic experiences and choices, explore how the pleasure of beauty differs from primary pleasures like food, and ponder how context and education affects aesthetic experiences.

In the future, the new center, which will be housed at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, hopes to provide undergraduate courses, produce neuroaesthetics-focused publications and host scholars in the humanities and artists in residence.

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