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The Art & Neuroscience Project
at the Italian Academy

For neuroscience Fellowships supporting researchers doing ongoing studies, please go to the Art & Neuroscience Fellowship Opportunities page; see here below for details about neuroscience events at the Academy.

Since 2001, the The Academy has developed seminars and public events designed to spread word of the newest scientific advances and to bring together researchers in the sciences and the humanities.

November 22, 2005
Initial Planning Meeting on the Humanities & Neuroscience Project
Called by David Freedberg and attended by Daniele Amati (SISSA, Trieste), Richard Axel (Columbia), Craig Bailey (Columbia), Francesco Benelli (Columbia), Emilio Bizzi (MIT), Jonathan Crary (Columbia), Aniruddha Das (Columbia), Giorgio Einaudi (Pisa), Vincent Ferrera (Columbia), Vittorio Gallese (Parma), Claude Ghez (Columbia), Mirella Ghirardi (Columbia), Charles Gilbert (Rockefeller), Michael Goldberg (Columbia), Jacqueline Gottlieb (Columbia), Joy Hirsch (Columbia), Don Hood (Columbia), Anna Ipata (Columbia), Tom Jessel (Columbia), Eric Kandel (Columbia), John Koester (Columbia), Joseph LeDoux (NYU), Lamberto Maffei (CNR Pisa), Maria Concetta Miniaci (Columbia), Michele Miozzo (Columbia), Anthony Movshon (NYU), Isabel Muzzio (Columbia), Kevin Ochsner (Columbia), Ning Qian (Columbia), Giacomo Rizzolatti (Parma), C. Daniel Salzman (Columbia), James Schwartz (Columbia), Piergiorgio Strata (Torino), Torsten Wiesel (Rockefeller)

March 24, 2006
Columbia Forum on Art and the New Biology of Mind
The Academy's Teatro was packed with an enthusiastic crowd eager to learn about recent advances in the neurosciences from the best-known scientists in the world, including Antonio Damasio, V.S. Ramachandran, Raymond Dolan, Vittorio Gallese, Joseph LeDoux, Semir Zeki, and Margaret Livingstone, along with responses and reflections from noted artists including Marina Abramovic, Robert Irwin, Richard Meier, Lynn Davis, Laurie Anderson, Terry Winters, Joan Snyder, Philip Taaffe, George Condo, and David Salle. The conference was led by the Academy's Director, David Freedberg, along with Arthur C. Danto and Nobel Laureate Eric R. Kandel. The Forum was sponsored in part by the Louise T. Blouin Foundation.
Video | Press report

June 13, 2006
Art and Vision Science
This closed meeting was held to pursue some of the ideas raised during the Forum in March. This gathering, in the Academy's Library, featured rigorous discussion among all the participants, some of them originally speakers or participants at the Forum.

April 24, 2007
Lecture on Mirror Neurons, Embodied Simulation, and Aesthetic Experience
Vittorio Gallese of the University of Parma, an acclaimed speaker at the 2006 Forum on Art and the New Biology of Mind, returned to the Academy to deliver this lecture, which brought another full house. The subject of mirror neurons – of which Gallese was one of the principal discoverers – now arouses intense interest in many fields, as was proved by the lively post-lecture discussion launched and moderated by respondents David Freedberg (Director of the Italian Academy) and Kevin Ochsner (Director of Columbia's Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory).

March 25, 2008
Symposium on Vision, Attention, and Emotion
Experts doing fresh and exciting work in the fields of neurophysiology and neuropsychology addressed the cerebral mechanisms of visual perception and visual attention and how they are linked to emotional systems. This approach is crucial to understanding the neuronal substrate of the emotions we experience when viewing a work of art. The sessions provided a lively day of provocative discussion on the basis of the latest research in these areas. Speakers included Marlene Behrmann (Carnegie Mellon), James Bisley (UCLA), Anna Ipata (Columbia researcher and 2007-8 Fellow at the Academy), Earl Miller (MIT), Kevin Ochsner (Columbia), Elizabeth Phelps (NYU), John Reynolds (Salk Institute), Daniel Salzman (Columbia), Jeremy Wolfe (Harvard), and Steven Yantis (Johns Hopkins) as well as Academy Director David Freedberg.
Video | Press report | Poster | Press release

June 13, 2009
Agency and Joint Attention
This closed meeting was chaired by Herbert Terrace, Janet Metcalfe, and Betsy Sparrow of Columbia’s Psychology Department, and was co-sponsored by The University Seminar on Behavioral & Cognitive Neuroscience. The gathering, held in the Academy's Library, focused on the antecedents and the development of the cognitive skills of agency and joint attention. The conference participants were a diverse group of scholars who investigate these issues from a variety of perspectives. Some have argued for the uniqueness of agency and joint attention in humans while others believe that some of the precursors of these skills exist in non-human primates.

October 5, 2010
Lecture on The Body in Aesthetic Experience: A Multidisciplinary Perspective
Vittorio Gallese of the University of Parma, who spoke on mirror neurons to a full house in 2007, came to the Academy again with this lecture arguing that observation is a more complex enterprise than the mere activation of the visual brain, as it implies a multi-modal notion of vision that encompasses the activation of somatosensory and emotion-related components. Respondents David Freedberg and Daniel Salzman (Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Columbia and expert on the neural basis of cognitive and emotional behavior) led a wide-ranging post-lecture discussion.
Poster | Press Release | Video (Courtesy of Mel Berkowitz)

December 3, 2010
Neurotechniques: New Approaches to Understanding Mind, Brain and Behavior
This workshop brought together neuroscientists from the New York area and beyond to present their research and methodological approach from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective. Scientists in the field of systems neuroscience presented and discussed modern techniques such as single- and multi-electrode recording, optical-, magnetic- and molecular-imaging, and optogenetically targeted neural control. They explained the importance of these techniques and the data they generate for the neuroscientific enterprise. The aim of the workshop was dual: firstly, to foster the interaction among scientists using a variety of techniques and secondly, to sensitize a more general public to the potential and significance of the recent developments in approaching neuroscience and the study of the brain and behavior.

Organized by the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University and former Academy Fellow Franco Pestilli, in cooperation with the Mahoney-Keck Center for Brain and Behavior Research, the event featured talks by Aniruddha Das, Karl Deisseroth, Winrich Freiwald, Michael Goldberg, Uri Hasson, David Heeger, Elizabeth Hillmann, Adam Kohn, John Maunsell, and Frank Tong.
Website | Poster | Video

December 9, 2011
Brainbeat: Frontiers in the Neuroscience of Music
This workshop brought together neuroscientists from the New York area and beyond to present their research and methodological approach from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective. Scientists in the field of neuroscience presented and discussed frontiers in music- and rhythm-related perception, cognition, rehabilitation, and neural plasticity. The event, hosted by the Italian Academy in cooperation with the Department of Music, featured talks by György Buzsáki, Steven Frucht, John Iversen, Lutz Jäncke, Nina Kraus, Isabelle Peretz, Gottfried Schlaug, Sarah Woolley, and Robert Zatorre.
Website | Video

February 6-7, 2014
The Default Mode Network and its Role in Aesthetics and Creativity
Randy Buckner (Harvard), Felicity Callard (Durham U.), Maurizio Corbetta (Washington U. School of Medicine), Rex Jung (U. of New Mexico), Bill Kelley (Dartmouth), Daniel Margulies (Max Planck Institute, Leipzig), Marcus Raichle (Washington U. School of Medicine), Yvette Sheline (UPenn), Nathan Spreng (Cornell), and Edward A. Vessel (NYU). Organizers: David Freedberg (Italian Academy), G. Gabrielle Starr (NYU), and Edward A. Vessel (NYU). Co-sponsor: NYU's College of Arts and Science.
Website | Poster | Video | Press Report: The Beautiful Brain

Related Media Links


"Empathy, Movement and Emotion," by David Freedberg in Emotional Systems: Contemporary Art between Emotion and Reason, Milan: Silvana Editore, 2007, pp. 38-61.

"Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Aesthetic Experience," by D. Freedberg and V. Gallese. Trends in Cognitive Science, May 2007, Vol. 11, No. 5, pp. 197-203.

"Empatia, movimento ed emozione," by D. Freedberg in: G. Lucignani and A. Pinotti, eds., Immagini della Mente. Neuroscienze, arte, filosofia, Milan: Cortina, 2007, pp. 13-68.

La Repubblica newspaper coverage of Vittorio Gallese and David Freedberg: "Tutte le emozioni in un quadro: così reagisce il nostro cervello" by Elena Dusi, May 15, 2007

ARTFORUM magazine coverage of the 2006 Forum on Art and the New Biology of Mind: “Brain Trust” by Jonathan Gilmore, Summer 2006


2006 interview with Prof. David Freedberg on the relationship between the visual Arts and the neurosciences (video)

2005 presentation by Prof. Freedberg at a conference at the NY Academy of Sciences (video)