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June 20, 2018

Penn Medicine launches first neuroaesthetics research center in United States

Neuroscience Aesthetics
Stock_Carroll - Penn Medicine Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Smilow Center for Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

The phrase "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" has always served to underscore the subjectivity of aesthetic preferences, reserving everyone's right to embrace what resonates most with them.

As neuroscience branches into new areas of interdisciplinary research, scientists are now hoping to gain a deeper understanding of our aesthetic biology. How does it influence the decisions we make as consumers, designers and romantic partners?

Penn Medicine announced Wednesday it has launched the new Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, the nation's first research hub dedicated to the intersection of neurobiology and aesthetics.

“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 neurologist Anjan Chatterjee, who will lead the new center. "People’s aesthetic choices makes them feel better and affects how others treat them."

The Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics will bring together university experts in neuroscience, psychology, business, architecture and the arts to work on programmatic elements in basic science, translational science and communication.

Questions researchers will ask include how the pleasure of aesthetic beauty differs from the enjoyment of other pleasures, whether or not beauty influences morality and how context and education shape our aesthetic profile.

"This center allows us to bring together, build upon and advance knowledge of the mysterious world of aesthetic experiences," Chatterjee said. "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.”