We explore beauty, language, cognition, and the brain using converging evidence from behavioral, neuroimaging, and lesion studies. We investigate a wide range of cognitive processes, including those underlying aesthetic experiences, the use of figurative and spatial language, and event representation. We're also interested in ethical questions raised by neuroscientific progress.
Our lab is at the University of Pennsylvania, and we're affiliated with the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics (PCfN) as well as the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN). We're situated within the Department of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM).
Anjan Chatterjee is the Frank A. and Gwladys H. Elliott Professor and Chair of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital and the founding director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics. He is a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his BA in Philosophy from Haverford College, MD from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his neurology residency at the University of Chicago.
His clinical practice focuses on patients with cognitive disorders. His research addresses questions about spatial cognition and language, attention, neuroethics, and neuroaesthetics. He wrote The Aesthetic Brain: How we evolved to desire beauty and enjoy art and co-edited: Neuroethics in Practice: Mind, medicine, and society, and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: behavioral neurology and neuropsychology.
He is or has been on the editorial boards of: American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, Behavioural Neurology, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Neuropsychology, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, European Neurology, Empirical Studies of the Arts, The Open Ethics Journal and Policy Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology. He was awarded the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology and the Rudolph Arnheim Prize for contributions to Psychology and the Arts by the American Psychological Association. He is a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Neuroethics Society, the past President of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, and the past President of the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society. He has served on the boards of the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and the Associated services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He currently serves on the Boards of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and Haverford College.
Neuroethics is concerned with the wide array of ethical, legal and social issues that are raised in research and practice. The field has grown rapidly over the last five years, becoming an active interdisciplinary research area involving a much larger set of academic fields and professions, including law, developmental psychology, neuropsychiatry, and the military.
Neuroethics in Practice helps to define and foster this emerging area at the intersection of neuroethics and clinical neuroscience, which includes neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and their pediatric subspecialties, as well as neurorehabiliation, clinical neuropsychology, clinical bioethics, and the myriad other clinical specialties (including nursing and geriatrics) in which practitioners grapple with issues of mind and brain.
Chatterjee and Farah have brought together leading neuroethicists working in clinically relevant areas to contribute chapters on an intellectually fascinating and clinically important set of neuroethical topics, involving brain enhancements, brain imaging, competence and responsibility, severe brain damage, and consequences of new neurotechnologies. Although this book will be of direct interest to clinicians, as the first edited volume to provide an overall comprehensive perspective on neuroethics across disciplines, it is also a unique and useful resource for a wide range of other scholars and students interested in ethics and neuroscience.
The Aesthetic Brain takes the reader on a wide-ranging journey through the world of beauty, pleasure, and art. Chatterjee uses neuroscience to probe how an aesthetic sense is etched in our minds and evolutionary psychology to explain why aesthetic concerns feature centrally in our lives. Along the way, Chatterjee addresses fundamental questions: What is beauty? Is beauty universal? How is beauty related to pleasure? What is art? Should art be beautiful? Do we have an instinct for art?
Chatterjee starts by probing the reasons that we find people, places, and even numbers beautiful. At the root of beauty, he finds, is pleasure. He then examines our pleasures by dissecting why we want and why we like food, sex, and money and how these rewards relate to aesthetic encounters. His ruminations on beauty and pleasure prepare him and the reader to face art. He wanders through the problems of defining art, understanding contemporary art, and interpreting ancient art. He explores why art, something that seems so useless, also feels fundamental to our humanity. Replete with facts, anecdotes, and analogies, this empirical guide to aesthetics offers scientific answers without deflating the wonders of beauty and art.
The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience takes a close look at what we can learn about our minds from how brain damage impairs our cognitive and emotional systems. This approach has a long and rich tradition dating back to the 19th century. With the rise of new technologies, such as functional neuroimaging and non-invasive brain stimulation, interest in mind-brain connections among scientists and the lay public has grown exponentially. Behavioral neurology and neuropsychology offer critical insights into the neuronal implementation of large-scale cognitive and affective systems.
The book starts out by making a strong case for the role of single case studies as a way to generate new hypotheses and advance the field. This chapter is followed by a review of work done before the First World War demonstrating that the theoretical issues that investigators faced then remain fundamentally relevant to contemporary cognitive neuroscientists. The rest of the book covers central topics in cognitive neuroscience including the nature of memory, language, perception, attention, motor control, body representations, the self, emotions, and pharmacology. There are chapters on modeling and neuronal plasticity as well as on visual art and creativity.
Each of these chapters take pains to clarify how this research strategy informs our understanding of these large scale systems by scrutinizing the systematic nature of their breakdown. Taken together, the chapters show that the roots of cognitive neuroscience, behavioral neurology and neuropsychology, continue to ground our understanding of the biology of mind and are as important today as they were 150 years ago.