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Leading neuroscientist seeks beauty, love and happiness
Date:11/13/2007

One of the world's leading neuroscientists is to search for the neural and biological basis for creativity, beauty and love after receiving over 1 million from the Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity. The research will bring together science, the arts and philosophy to answer fundamental questions about what it means to be human.

Professor Semir Zeki from University College London (UCL) has received a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award to establish a programme of research in the new field of "neuroaesthetics". The research will build on his previous work into the neural mechanisms behind beauty(1) and love(2).

Together with Professor Ray Dolan, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, Professor Zeki will look at questions that have been debated for millennia by writers, artists and philosophers and yet have been little studied by neurobiologists: Can we measure beauty objectively" How are beauty and love related" What does it mean to be happy"

"All human societies place a high premium on art and the pursuit of beauty," says Professor Zeki. "We all value and reward creativity. We all want to pursue happiness. But what do these entities mean in concrete, neurobiological terms" We hope to address these issues experimentally. The results will not only increase our knowledge about the workings of the human brain but will also give deep insights into human nature and how we view ourselves."

Neuroesthetics aims to illuminate the brain's workings through its cultural products in a similar way to how neuroscientists study the brain through malfunctions caused by disease. However, Professor Zeki believes its impact may be much wider.

"The new field of neuroaesthetics will teach biologists to use the products of the brain in art, music, literature and mathematics to better understand how the brain functions," he says. "Success will encourage an interdisciplinary approach to other fields,
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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert

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