‘Your Brain on Art’ Conference to Explore the Physiological Side of Creativity

Sessions to integrate the arts into the neuroscience field to spur innovations

11 August 2017

An imaginative mind generates ideas that can lead to breakthroughs, but the creative process is still a mystery. Investigating what happens in the brain during that process is a focus of the International Conference on Mobile Brain-Body Imaging and Neuroscience of Art, Innovation, and Creativity. Known as the Your Brain on Art conference, the event is scheduled for 10 to 13 September in Valencia, Spain. IEEE Brain is one of the technical sponsors.

The conference brings together thought leaders, practitioners, and innovators working on new approaches in areas such as art therapy, neurotechnologies, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education.

“Your Brain on Art aims to identify the challenges and opportunities for engaging science, engineering, technology, and design practices to promote creativity, lifelong learning, and innovation,” Senior Member José M. Azorin says. He and Senior Member Jose L. Contreras-Vidal are organizing the conference.

“We hope these collaborations lead to novel approaches in advancing personalized learning, reverse-engineering the brain, and designing better neuroprostheses and brain-computer interfaces,” Azorin says.


The conference includes panel discussions on a variety of topics, such as how the creative arts and aesthetic experiences engage the mind and promote innovation, how disruptive neurotechnologies are changing science and the creative arts, and how to design brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can enhance artists’ creativity. Speakers include not only engineers and scientists but also artists, art therapists, educators, museum curators, musicians, and policymakers.

In the session “How Do Arts-Science Collaborations Create New Knowledge Through Aesthetic Problem Solving?” panelists will discuss artificial intelligence and creativity, how the brain develops aesthetic values, and the role genetics play in creativity, organizers say. The “Brain Mechanisms of Aesthetic Perception and Artistic Brain-Computer Interfaces” session is a chance to review the advances made in BCIs and their applications in the arts. “How Can Arts and Neuroscience Research Improve Physical and Mental Health and Promote Well-being?” aims to cover challenges related to the healing power of the creative arts, how art is being used to understand mental illnesses, and the role the arts and humanities play in STEAM education.

IEEE Fellow Stephen Grossberg, a plenary speaker and a professor of cognitive and neural systems at Boston University, is set to discuss how paintings can activate different combinations of brain processes to achieve the artist’s aesthetic goals.

Also planned are live demonstrations including one in which attendees can analyze an electroencephalogram (EEG) of an artist while he paints. In another demo, a dancer, a jazz musician, and a conceptual visual artist will wear skullcaps embedded with electrodes that monitor their brain activity as they play a variant of the Exquisite Corpse game and respond to each other.


More than 30 people signed up for the brain-computer-interface hackathon, sponsored by the IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society and IEEE Brain. Participants are charged with building prototypes that integrate engineering, science, education, medicine, and the arts. They can choose from six projects selected by the hackathon’s organizing committee or suggest a new one.

One of the projects on the organizer’s list is to work with an attendee who is a professional dancer to design a BCI that uses EEG signals to choreograph lights and music for a performance. Another is to design an EEG cap with 3D-printed parts.

With the exception of laptops, all software and hardware will be provided, organizers say. Prizes are to be awarded for best artistic, most innovative, and most disruptive prototypes.

“We’re holding this hackathon to foster the application of neuroscience and neurotechnology to new disciplines and fields,” Azorin says. “We want to generate new ideas and expand collaborations among BCI developers.”

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