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Being Human: Your Brain on Art

Speaker(s): Margaret Livingstone

San Francisco, CA

June 21, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm


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What is the secret of Mona Lisa’s smile? Why do Claude Monet’s fields of flowers seem to wave in the breeze? Join neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone for “Being Human: Your Brain on Art” and learn about the inner workings of human vision.

For centuries artists have understood visual perception and learned how to fool the brain. In fact artists have been experimenting with vision longer than neurobiologists. For example, color and luminance can play independent roles in visual perception. Picasso remarked on this phenomenon, “Colors are only symbols. Reality is to be found in luminance alone.” These effects used by artists offer insights into how we see, and these can now be described in terms of the underlying neurobiology.

Join in the fun as we explore how art and neurobiology help us understand the nature of the human visual experience.

About Being Human

Being Human mixes short talks from great minds with fun hands-on experiments, drinks, conversation, and storytelling. Each month we’ll explore different aspects of our evolution, our behavior, and the human experience.

Doors open at 6 pm for the Being Human Lounge.  Mix and mingle with your fellow humans upstairs in Public Work’s Odd Job Room. Enjoy a different local food vendor and thematic specialty cocktail each month, plus a fully-stocked bar of beer, wine, and delicious cocktails.

The Main Room opens at 7 pm for seating. The talk will begin shortly thereafter.

Seating is limited and available on a first-come first-serve basis. There is plenty of standing room for everyone.

Age Limit: 21+

Buy Tickets Now!



June 21, 2016
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Event Category:


The Leakey Foundation


Public Works
161 Erie Street
San Francisco, CA 94103 United States
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Margaret Livingstone

Dr. Margaret Livingstone is professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. She has led ground-breaking research into hormones and behaviour, learning, dyslexia, and the neurobiology of vision. She has explored, in particular, how vision science can inform our understanding of visual art. Livingstone’s work has generated some important insights, including a simple explanation for the elusive quality of the Mona Lisa’s smile (it is more visible to peripheral vision than to central vision) and the fact that Rembrandt, like a surprisingly large number of famous artists, was likely to have been stereoblind.
Her popular science book Vision and Art (2002) brought her wide acclaim as a scientist who can communicate with artists and art historians, to their mutual benefit.

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