Inner Vision: an Exploration of Art and the Brain, by Semir Zeki Essay

Inner Vision: an Exploration of Art and the Brain, by Semir ZekiIs artistic expression intertwined with the inner workings of the brain more than we would ever have imagined? Author and cognitive neuroscientist Semir Zeki certainly thinks so. Zeki is a leading authority on the research surrounding the “visual brain”. In his book Inner Vision, he ventures to explain to the reader how our brain actually perceives different works of art, and seeks to provide a biological basis for the theory of aesthetics. With careful attention to details and organization, he manages to explain the brain anatomy and physiology involved when viewing different works of art without sounding impossibly complicated – a definite plus for scientists and non-scientists alike who are interested in the topic of art and the brain. Throughout the book, Zeki supports his arguments by presenting various research experiments, brain image scans, and plenty of relevant artwork to clarify everything described in the text. By mostly focusing on modern masterpieces (which include Vermeer, Michelangelo, Mondrian, kinetic, abstract, and representational art), he convincingly explains how the color, motion, boundaries, and shapes of these unique works of art are each received by specific pathways and systems in the brain that are specially designed to interpret each of these particular aspects of the art, as opposed to a single pathway interpreting all of the visual input.

The subject matter that Zeki approaches here is no easy topic to clearly explain to others, especially since a whole lot remains to be discovered in the field itself. Yet Zeki does a superb job of explaining. In my neurobiology class, I recently learned that if we bang our arm or rub…

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… Overall, I think that the book is deeply intriguing and engaging – it draws the reader in so intensely that she cannot break free until she reads the very last page. Zeki manages to bring to light so many new ideas about the visual brain. He takes what little we do know about the brain and distinguishes myth from fact. It is interesting to note how much of the book is really just hypothetical guesses proposed by Zeki, since there is still so much about the physiological workings of the brain that we have yet to discover. Nevertheless, I found it fun to read the book and compare the known facts to the theories and make guesses as to what might actually be found to be true someday. This is a most delightful book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in uncovering the mysterious links that exist between the brain and visual art.


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