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Artists can flourish after brain damage. What does this say about neurology and aesthetics?

You wouldn’t expect a scientist, teacher or business leader’s work to improve following a traumatic brain injury or the onset of a neurological disorder, but, oddly, that does sometimes seem to be the case for artists – at least if you’re willing to accept expert opinions on art. In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the PBS series Closer to Truth, Anjan Chatterjee, professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how artistic proclivities and production can change and even improve with neurological disorder. Because of the brain’s complexity, there are myriad ways in which this phenomenon can potentially be made manifest, but, as Chatterjee elucidates, the answer lies in different constellations of brain systems becoming more prominent as others become subdued. And, as Kuhn and Chatterjee discuss, these experiences in both artists and observers raise intriguing questions at the frontiers of neurology and aesthetics.

1 November 2021

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