As regular readers know, I explore the use in dispute resolution of playing and making music, drawing, and other activities that access parts of our brains and minds not typically reached through usual conversation and negotiation. Whether these neural regions facilitate resolution has been researched a little (see, for example, studies here) and supported often anecdotally.
A new book will likely provide some helpful information about the arts and the brain. I relish the thought of devouring such a book. The Neural Imagination: Aesthetic and Neuroscientific Approaches to the Arts was reviewed in a press release from the News Center of University of Buffalo.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In a groundbreaking new book, "The Neural Imagination" (2009, University of Texas Press), Irving Massey, PhD, explores the relevance of neuroscience to the study of the arts.
Subtitled "Aesthetic and Neuroscientific Approaches to the Arts," the book is concerned with the emergence and significance of neuroaesthetics, an alliance born of the recent and rapid convergence of art and technology.
"I undertook to write the book," the author says, "to allay fears in artists and audiences alike that brain science, in its ability to cite parts of the brain excited by dissonance, for instance, or to describe novelty in terms of neural trauma, may 'explain away' the arts."
Massey is professor emeritus of English and comparative literature and adjunct emeritus professor of French at the University at Buffalo, and the author of 10 noted books and scores of articles and reviews, in which he has often employed brain science to explore the work of specific artists.
"I am interested in how certain features of art are clarified by neuroscientific inquiry," he says, citing research that explores neural electrical activity that carries codes through which we experience our environment, and identifies the very neurons that respond to beauty as such.
This book's novel contribution to our understanding of esthetic experiences at the neurological level, however, lies in its combination of scientific and humanistic approaches and the author's full understanding of how each augments the other.
Massey explores the minds of such artists as Ravel, whose brain lesions helped to localize constituent elements of artistic production, and Stravinsky, whose use of dramatically unfamiliar asymmetries, polytonalities and primitive polyrhythms in "Rite of Spring" may have -- it has been speculated – over-stimulated listeners' neurons, provoking schizophrenic symptoms and the infamous riots that met its initial performance.
In these pages, too, appear Rousseau, Schubert (and his trout), England's greatest living travel writer (Paddy Fermor), Gerard Manley Hopkins' inscapes, Visconti and Fellini, Shakespeare, Proust and countless other visual, literary and musical artists whose work and/or neurological enhancements or detriments have contributed richly to our understanding of how neuroaesthetic processes operate.
But Massey is not interested only in the fascinating aspects of