The Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics is in many ways a unique research institute. A fundamental principal is that the institute should be a creative and interdisciplinary environment where empirical researchers within fields such as neuroscience, psychology and behavioral genetics interact with academics with a relevant background in the humanities. The institute’s main focus, empirical aesthetics, is in practice a very broad research area. Many researchers at the institute study aesthetical experiences and their psychological and biological origins. At my department, the Institute for Cognitive Neuropsychology, a central research program is the analysis of the mechanisms behind learning, expertise, and creativity, using music as a model. We are also interested in the connection between cultural events with well-being and health, and the possible causes. Other researchers at the institute study for example how the brain interprets and represents music, and how this varies between cultures, the relations between the brains systems for processing music and language, and the fundamental functions of the hearing system.
One thing our researchers have in common is a clear focus on performance arts like music and dance. The institute’s ArtLab works both as a concert hall and as a laboratory where psychological and physiological measurements, including registering brain activity with EEG, can be taken from both audience and artists during a performance. In addition to ArtLab, the institute has a rich and diverse collection of laboratories for behavioural research and physiology. The institute is also strongly integrated with the rich environment for brain research that exists in the Frankfurt area. For example, a platform for experiments with brain imaging is shared between our institute, Ernst-Strüngmann-institutet and Ernst-Strüngmann-institutet, and within a few years we will have two 3T MR-scanners, one 7T-scanner and equipment for magnetoencephalography (MEG).
Director at the MPI for Empirical Aesthetics