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Lecture: The Artist as Neuroscientist

Dr. Patrick Cavanagh


Lecture on “The Artist as Neuroscientist”

by Dr. Patrick Cavanagh

Artists often break the rules of physics, using impossible shadows, shapes, or reflections. These undetected transgressions offer a wealth of information about visual perception. Dr. Patrick Cavanagh will survey cave paintings to modern and contemporary art to enhance understanding of “science by looking.” In fact, the history of art provides the longest documented record of neuroscience research.

Dr. Cavanagh is Head of the Centre of Attention and Vision and Professor at the Université Paris Descartes and also Research Professor at Harvard University and Dartmouth College. Previously, he was on the faculty of the Université de Montreal from 1972-1989 and full-time at Harvard from 1989-2007. He holds his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from McGill University in Montreal. An interest in artificial intelligence led to his PhD in cognitive psychology from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He has studied the properties and strategies of visual attention and is a pioneering scholar in examining art as a source of data for neuroscience. Dr. Cavanagh is widely published and has lectured at some of the world’s finest universities.

Image: Jimmy Ernst, Sea of Grass-Sunset, 1982, Oil on canvas
Gift of Dallas Ernst 1997.4

Presented in conjunction with

Event Details

May 14, 2016

11 am–12 pm

Event Categories

Marly Room: Museum of Fine Arts

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