2005 Conference on Neuroesthetics


Vittorio Gallese, Associate Professor of Human Physiology, Department of Neuroscience, Physiology Section, University of Parma, Italy
"Intentional attunement: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy"

It has been proposed that the capacity to code the 'like me' analogy between self and others constitutes a basic prerequisite and a starting point for social cognition. It is by means of this self/other equivalence that meaningful social bonds can be established, that we can recognize others as similar to us, and that imitation can take place. I will discuss recent neurophysiological and brain imaging data on monkeys and humans, showing that the 'like me' analogy may rest upon a series of 'mirror-matching' mechanisms. A new conceptual tool able to capture the richness of the experiences we share with others is introduced: the shared manifold of intersubjectivity. I propose that all kinds of interpersonal relations (imitation, empathy and the attribution of intentions) depend, at a basic level, on the constitution of a shared manifold space. This shared space is functionally characterized by automatic, unconscious embodied simulation routines.

Ray Dolan, Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London
"From identity to emotional processing - an hierarchy in face processing"

Faces represent one of the most complex objects in our physical environment. Face perception differs from object perception in that a face invariably represents an agent. As a consequence processing a face extends beyond its mere categorisation as a particular class of object to encompass processing that includes identity, emotion and intentionality. How the brain accomplishes these tasks is the subject of this lecture where I will draw on evidence form neuropsychology, neuroimaging and studies of patients with specific deficits in processing distinct components of faces.

Leonard Pitt, Writer and Movement Artist, Berkeley, California
"The Art of Face - a Mask, a Body, a Movement"

I will take the audience on a guided tour of the human body to see how quirks, foibles, fears, and fantasies are revealed through posture, gait and gesture. Working with a variety of handmade masks I will reveal the secrets and techniques of the art of physical theater.

Aina Puce, Professor & Director of Neuroimaging, Center for Advanced Imaging, Department of Radiology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
"The Neuroesthetics of Dynamic Face Perception"

My lecture will begin with Duchenne's 19th century studies of facial expression through galvanic stimulation of the facial musculature - showing the dynamics of facial expression. His writings on the topic were divided into 'scientific' and 'aesthetic' issues. I will discuss behavioral issues related to the esthetics of dynamic facial perception: judgements of facial esthetics, positive and negative affect, and corrective surgery for facial distortions and asymmetry. Physiological issues are also related to the esthetics of dynamic facial perception: brain mechanisms underlying static face and dynamic face (biological motion) perception; brain mechanisms active in the evaluation of facial gestures and esthetic judgments.


Judy Dater, Photographer, Berkeley, California
"From Either Side: Portrait Photography and Emotional Identification"

The presentation will be an overview of my work, from approximately mid-sixties to the present.  The work will encompass portraits, nudes, and self-portraits.  I will address the idea of my own personal empathy with my subjects as well as my audience.  I will talk about what it feels like to be on either side of the camera.

Alice O'Toole, Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas
"Wandering through face space: Explorations into the opponent processes underlying the visual representations of faces."

The human representations of faces is often describe metaphorically in terms of a "face space". Individual faces are points or trajectories in a space with axes that define facial features. Using a computationally-derived face space, it is possible to make caricatures of individual faces by moving them away from the average in the space. Anti-caricatures, or less distinct versions of a face, can be made by moving faces toward the average. An "anti-face", or opposite of a face, can be made by moving the face backwards along the identity trajectory, through the mean, and out the other side. Short-term adaptation to these "anti-faces" facilitates the perception of the identity of the original matched faces. I will discuss how selective adaptation to faces can be used as a tool for probing the psychological and neural properties of face representations.

Frances B.M. de Waal, Professor, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
"Cultural Teachings from the Apes"

The question of animal culture is being asked more loudly every day. Reports of changing whale songs in the ocean and dozens of habits that vary among chimpanzee populations in Africa have appeared in prominent journals. Research in this area began with the discovery of sweet potato washing among Japanese macaques on a small island. One young female started it, but soon her mother and peers followed, until almost all monkeys were doing it. Here I will discuss the origin of the animal culture concept, how it is being applied by students of animal behavior, and how it may even include art in the animal world, or at least an esthetic sense. I will add a few notes on how animals are portrayed in and have affected human art.

Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus of  Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San  Francisco
"Recognizing the Subtleties in Facial Expressions"

I will explain and illustrate how to enhance the recognition of how others are feeling, sometimes before they know they are becoming emotional; sometimes when they are trying to conceal how they feel.

The Fourth International Conference on Neuroesthetics
January 15, 2005