Aesthetic Empathy Publication date : September 30, 2015
Pierre Lemarquis is a neurologist. A former intern and department head at Marseille’s teaching hospital, he is a member of the French Society of Neurology, the Society of Francophone Clinical Neurophysiologists and of the New York Academy of Sciences. His two earlier books published by Editions Odile Jacob, Sérénade pour un cerveau musicien and Portrait du cerveau en artiste were huge successes.
Listening to Mozart, admiring a fresco by Michelangelo or reading one of Shakespeare’s plays all have a similar effect. After stimulation of the appropriate sensorial brain areas for sounds, images or reading, the brain behaves as if musical notes, colours or fictional characters had possessed it. Even if we remain apparently silent and immobile, the brain sings, dances, becomes animated and feels emotions. In the aesthetic experience something larger than ourselves possesses us, altering our vision of the world and our comprehension of existence.
When we feel transported by a work of art, we experience what is known as ‘aesthetic empathy’. We now know that the capacity to experience beauty depends on an actual change in our neuronal circuits.
As Pierre Lemarquis brilliantly shows here, such aesthetic empathy has therapeutic effects, which can result in a quasi-rebirth, provoking spiritual regeneration and abolishing all notions of space and time. It revitalises us and, through us, the works of art of the past are brought to life.
• How art can impact the human brain.
• An amazing explanation of how the human mind can open itself to art and beauty, as the brain makes previously unknown links and connections.
• An extraordinary journey into the world of art and beauty.