Scanning for Picasso, Dalí Found in fMRI Study

Neuroscientist Yukiyasu Kamitani have in a small-scale study scanned a dozen students watching images by Picasso and Dalí trying to find patterns in their brain activity. Through the findings they purport that scientists will be able to read your mind when it comes to the exacts neural differences between artworks by different artistic hands. New Scientist reports.

The study was conducted at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan where the team showed 12 students images of Picasso and Dalí while scanning their brains using functional MRI. A computer program then identified patterns in activity that were supposed to be unique for each of the two artists. But the program ”merely” completed about 80% of the guessing game, a bit more than just guessing.

Crucifixion (Hypercubic Body) by Salvador Dalí

The most interesting finding was that to identify the artists, the computer program relied on activity in multiple brain regions, not just the visual ones. But, we must be very wary to make statements about how the brain process styles, since this is not just biochemically given, it is also a matter of training the brain to see and identify images off multiple sorts.

Studies conducted on chess players find that a trained eye can remember and identify a given set of chess pieces but only if it correlates with a known scenario within the game of chess. A control group then has much harder remembering any such scenario, random or not.  So memory and constructed patterns in our minds can surely play a vital role for how these relults play out. I would advise mr Kamitani to continue the interesting research but extending it to art students and artists alike.

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