Newswise — What makes Mona Lisa’s smile elusive? What produces a dynamic illusion in Pointillist paintings? And why did Picasso think “colors are only symbols”?

Margaret Stratford Livingstone, a professor at Harvard University’s School of Medicine, will consider these questions in “What Art Can Tell Us about the Brain,” NYU’s Annual Irving H. Jurow Lecture, on Tues., March 20, 5:30 p.m. in NYU’s Hemmerdinger Hall, Silver Center for Arts and Science, 100 Washington Square East (enter at 32 Waverly Place or 31 Washington Place). 

Observing that artists have been doing experiments on vision longer than have neurobiologists, Livingstone will explore how the segregation of color and luminance processing are the basis for why some impressionist paintings seem to shimmer, why some paintings seem to move, and how the Impressionists painted “air.” Her talk will explore how artists have figured out important features about how our brains extract information from faces and objects and will discuss why learning disabilities may be associated with artistic talent.

Livingstone, the Takeda Professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, is the author of Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing (Harry N. Abrams). 

The event is free and open to the public. Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 212.998.8100 for more information. Subway Lines: 6 (Astor Place); R, W (8th Street); A, B, C, D, E, F, M (West 4th Street).

The event is presented by NYU’s College of Arts and Science in conjunction with the exhibition “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal,” on view at the Grey Art Gallery of New York University (100 Washington Square East) through March 31, 2018. For more information, please visit


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