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Steven Brown

Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior
McMaster University

Co-Sponsored with the Binghamton University Theatre Department

Towards a Unified Neurocognitive Framework for the Arts

Monday, November 25, 2013
Academic Building A G008, 5:00 PM

Abstract

A unified neurocognitive perspective on the arts is presented that provides a new framework for thinking about the functions, inter-relationships, and brain mechanisms of the arts in their collectivity. It is argued that the arts have two fundamental social functions: re-creation and coordination. Re-creation refers to the ability of the arts to represent objects and events, generally for narrative purposes related to storytelling. Coordination is the use of the arts to synchronize people in time and space, often times for joint action. Next, I propose that there are four art-specific modules in the human brain that mediate functions that are either unique to arts or that are strongly accentuated in arts contexts. These are 1) figurative drawing, 2) acting, 3) metric entertainment in dance and music, and 4) tonality in music. I discuss brain networks that mediate these functions in an attempt to present a synthetic neural model of the arts, including the arts’ recreative and coordinative aspects.

Biography

Steven Brown is the director of the NeuroArts Lab in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He got his Ph.D. in the department of Genetics at Columbia University in New York, and did postdoctoral research at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. His research deals with the neural basis of the arts, including music, dance, acting, and drawing. He is co-editor of two books: “The Origins of Music” (MIT Press) and “Music and Manipulation” (Berghahn Books).

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