Your Brain on Art

As a contemporary art museum at a major public research university, Blaffer is uniquely poised to collaborate with leading thinkers and innovators across disciplines. One of our most talked-about collaborations featured the pioneering research of the University of Houston’s Noninvasive Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory, led by UH neuroscientist and engineer Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, as seen in the Wall Street Journal and in the peer-revieed journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

In February 2015, Contreras-Vidal fitted Becky Valls, a UH associate professor of dance, with a skullcap embedded with electrodes to track her brainwaves and allow her to control the stage lights as she performed in the UH campus’s Quintero Theatre. The event was part of the Blaffer Art Museum Innovation Series, an ambitious cross-disciplinary series of lectures, panel discussions and performances in conjunction with the critically acclaimed, Alzheimer’s-themed exhibition Janet Biggs: Echo of the Unknown.


In Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, museum visitors checked out headsets fitted with electrodes to track brain activity as they viewed recent exhibitions.

Check out this UH Moment on the Your Brain on Art headsets at Blaffer.


For a related, ongoing series of free public programs, artists in various disciplines wore skullcaps fitted with electrodes as they play Exquisite Corpse, the collaborative, chance-based game made famous by the Surrealists.

These popular events have featured visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, and even kids!


At the 2016 International Conference of Mobile Brain-Body Imaging and the Neuroscience of Art, Innovation and Creativity, held July 24-27 in Cancun, thought-leaders and performers acting at the intersection of the arts, neuroscience, engineering, media, industry, education and medicine will convene to review the state of the art, identify challenges and opportunities and create a road map for the field.

Findings, including contributed papers and discussions, will appear in an special issue in the open source Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

The Organizing Committee will consider applications for a limited number of student scholarships to attend the doctoral/postdoctoral consortium supported by the National Science Foundation. Selected applicants will receive all-inclusive accommodations in shared rooms and round-trip flight in e-class. To be considered, applicants must be enrolled in a graduate program or be engaged in postdoctoral studies. Please email a single pdf with your NSF-formatted biosketch, a letter of recommendation from your advisor, one page abstract about your research/work, and a cover letter to For full consideration, please apply by April 15, 2016.


This collaboration is part of research funded by the National Science Foundation (#BCS 1533691) to study connections between the brain and creativity, expression, and the perception of art.

This article on the NSF’s website discusses the progress of Contreras-Vidal’s research.


Houston Public Media’s Amy Bishop recently tried out the headsets while visiting a Blaffer exhibition. Here are parts one and two of her story about the experience.

Stay informed about the Noninvasive Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory’s projects by liking its Facebook page.

Check out this Houston Public Media report and this UH Media video on our first Your Brain on Art public program featuring artists Lily Cox-Richard, Jo Ann Fleischhauer, and Dario Robleto.


Click here for photos from Your Brain on Art with Visual Artists.

Click here for photos from Your Brain on Art with Dancers.

Click here for photos from Your Brain on Art with Musicians.

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Phone: 713-743-9521
Mailing Address: Blaffer Art Museum
University of Houston
120 Fine Arts Building Houston, TX 77204