This project has received funding from the European
Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation programme.
Grant agreement No. 834033 AN-ICON.

2021 Interactivity


Embodied simulation and experimental aesthetics

Vittorio Gallese University of Parma and Columbia University

By exploiting the empirical approach of neuroscience and physiology, we can investigate the brain-body mechanisms enabling our interactions with man-made images, shedding light on the functional mechanisms enabling their perceptual experience. In so doing we can deconstruct some of the concepts we normally use when referring to aesthetics and art. According to Hans Gumbrecht (2004), aesthetic experience involves two components: one deals with meaning, the other one with presence. The notion of presence entails the bodily involvement of image beholders through a synesthetic multimodal relationship with the artistic/cultural artifact.

I will present some results of our research showing that the creative expressive processes characterizing our species, in spite of their progressive abstraction and externalization from the body, keep their bodily ties intact. Creative expression is tied to the body not only because the body is the instrument of creative expression, but also because it is the main medium allowing its experience.

Vittorio Gallese, MD and trained neurologist is Professor of Psychobiology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Dept. of Medicine & Surgery of the University of Parma, Italy, Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at the Dept. of Art History and Archeology, Columbia University, New York, USA, and Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Philosophy of the School of Advanced Study of the University of London. Cognitive neuroscientist, his research focuses on the relation between the sensorimotor system and cognition by investigating the neurobiological and bodily grounding of intersubjectivity, psychopathology, language and aesthetics. His major scientific contribution is the discovery of mirror neurons, together with the colleagues of Parma, and the development of a new model of perception and imagination: Embodied Simulation Theory. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and three books.