ChatLab

Group photo of ChatLab taken during Zoom meeting
ChatLab group photo (March 2021)

 

About ChatLab

We explore beauty, language, cognition, and the brain using converging evidence from behavioral, neuroimaging, and lesion studies. We investigate a wide range of cognitive processes, including those underlying aesthetic experiences, the use of figurative and spatial language, and event representation. We're also interested in ethical questions raised by neuroscientific progress.

Our lab is affiliated with the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics (PCfN).

Lab Members


Director

Anjan Chatterjee

Anjan Chatterjee

Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture
 anjan@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Anjan Chatterjee is a Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture and the founding Director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics. He wrote The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art and co-edited Neuroethics in Practice: Mind, Medicine, and Society and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychology. He has received the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology and the Rudolph Arnheim Prize for contribution to Psychology and the Arts. He is a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Neuroethics Society, the past President of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, and the past President of the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society. He currently serves on the Boards of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and has served on the boards of Haverford College, the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

CV for Anjan Chatterjee


Staff

Bella Bobrow

Bella Bobrow

Lab Manager
 isabella.bobrow@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I received my B.S. in Neuroscience from UC Santa Cruz, where I also studied art and architectural theory. I'm interested in placemaking, face-blindness, wellness architecture, facial recognition algorithms, and how art can make science more accessible – not necessarily in that order. Outside of the lab, I do film photography and sew absurd garments. 

Emily Urban

Emily Urban

Lab Manager
 emily.urban@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, where I studied Fine Arts and Visual Studies with a concentration in the “Science and Philosophy of Seeing.” I am interested in how visual perception can affect our comprehension of the world and of art. Besides acting as Lab Manager for ChatLab, I’m currently researching how we perceive human bodies. In my free time, I continue to build my artistic practice and freelance.


Postdoctoral Researchers

Alex Christensen

Alex Christensen

Postdoctoral Researcher
 alexander.christensen@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

My research roots can be traced back to personality: How are people different? And what sorts of outcomes extend from these differences? Specifically, I am interested in what makes people more (or less) open to various experiences. My Ph.D. work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro sought to clarify the types of experiences people are open to, the cognitive and neurological differences of “open” people, and the behavioral consequences of being “open” (e.g., creative, curious, humorous). At Penn, I look forward to exploring how people differ in their cognitive and affective responses to aesthetics, and how these differences affect their subsequent aesthetic experiences.

Stacey Humphries

Stacey Humphries

Postdoctoral Researcher

I am interested in when and how sensorimotor representations shape language, conceptual processing, reasoning, and aesthetic judgment. To do this work, I use a variety of methods, including functional neuroimaging, studies of neurological patients (Parkinson’s disease patients, and stroke patients with focal lesions), and cognitive and behavioural testing. During my Ph.D. at the University of Manchester, UK, I explored how impaired action representations affect the way patients with Parkinson’s disease gesture about action concepts in conversation. At Penn, I am examining how neurodegenerative patients comprehend literal and metaphorical language, how stroke patients understand analogies, and how patients and young adults view different types of abstract artwork.

Nate Klooster

Nate Klooster

Postdoctoral Researcher
 klooster@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I am interested in the neuroscience of memory and language broadly. At Penn, I study semantic memory and figurative language. Examining neurological patients allows me to establish the necessity of brain regions in their support of cognition. My work identifying experimental measures sensitive to the earliest cognitive changes in neurodegenerative disease aims to impact early diagnoses and the evaluation of potential treatments. I earned my Ph.D. at the University of Iowa where I studied semantic richness in patients with bilateral hippocampal damage and profound amnesia. Outside of lab, I like spending time with my wife Dana, our daughter Izzy, and our dog Boogie.

Adam Weinberger

Adam Weinberger

Postdoctoral Researcher
 adam.weinberger@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I received my PhD in psychology from Georgetown University in 2020. I am broadly interested in human learning, and how implicit processes shape our more explicit knowledge and beliefs, including belief in God. I also have ongoing research examining creativity. My work involves a variety of behavioral and neural methods, with a particular focus on neural representations and brain network organization. Outside of the lab, I enjoy listening to music, making cocktails, and playing online chess.

Cliff Workman

Cliff Workman

Postdoctoral Researcher
 cliffworkmanphd@gmail.com

When we judge people for their moral or prosocial behaviors, do our perceptions of their beauty influence our evaluations? I am interested in understanding how morality and beauty interact to modulate decision-making. Prior to joining the ChatLab, I was a postdoctoral scholar in the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of Chicago under the supervision of Jean Decety. Our work investigates the psycholigical and neural mechansisms underpinning political polarization and support for ideologically-motivated violence. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in England in 2016 where I investigated relations between moral cognition and emotions and the physiopathology of major depression. Before starting my PhD, I worked at Johns Hopkins University on neuroimaging studies of psychiatric disorders, and also completed a B.S. in Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where I worked on studies of clinical, cognitive, and social functioning.


Student Researchers

Noha El Toukhy

Noha El Toukhy

Undergraduate Student
 neltoukhy@haverford.edu

Hello! I am Senior at Haverford college, pursuing a B.A in Psychology along with a minor in Political Science. My past experiences stem from an interest in cultural psychology and stereotyping psychology. Previously, at the Intersectionality Lab at Haverford, I worked as a research assistant, where I examined how children learn about the social world and how they use multiple pieces of information to categorize people into social groups. At ChatLab, I am focusing on whether facial anomalies are more detrimental for warmth than competence. as part of my Senior Thesis. After completing my undergraduate degree, I will pursue a PSYD degree in Clinical Psychology.

Ellie Garside

Ellie Garside

Graduate Student
 egarside@design.upenn.edu

My interests lie at the intersection of neuroscience and architecture, studying how people interact with and experience the built environment and how to design spaces to improve one’s health and wellness. At Penn, I am a Master of Architecture candidate currently working on a thesis, titled NEURO-architecture, that seeks to understand dementia patients’ perception of space and the role of design in increasing autonomy of the patients and improve their quality of life. I spend as much time outside as possible walking around Philly, enjoying the waterfront and exploring different parts of the city.

Dexian He

Dexian He

Graduate Student

I am interested in the role of experience in forming individual face preferences. In ChatLab, my project focuses on how viewer age and subject age interact to affect the perception of facial attractiveness. I am a second-year doctoral student at the School of Psychology, South China Normal University. I received my master’s degree from SCNU in 2018 where I investigated the relation between obesity and cognitive control, and how it can be modulated by aesthetics of food. Beyond research, I enjoy reading, jogging, and traveling.

Farhan Jivraj

Farhan Jivraj

Undergraduate Student
 fjivraj@sas.upenn.edu

I'm an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania studying Neuroscience and Fine Arts. I'm particularly interested in how the multi-sensory experiences of art and design can affect human emotion, the (often mathematical!) beauty of nature, along with the development of novel therapies in psychopharmacology. In my free time I enjoy sculpture, garment design, discovering and producing odd music, along with cooking.

Mayank Patel

Mayank Patel

Medical Student
 mjp438@drexel.edu

I am a first year medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine. I received my Bachelor’s in biomedical engineering but have always had an interest in neuroscience leading me to work at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals during my undergrad where I spent time learning about the brain and Alzheimer’s detection through the use of PET scans. My interest in ChatLab arose from wanting the answers to how we judge people and my current research is looking into how people perceive facial expressions, using functional near-infrared spectrometry. Outside of school and research, I love biking, gardening, cooking, and listening to podcasts.

Will Sturgeon

Will Sturgeon

Undergraduate Student
 sturge@sas.upenn.edu

As an undergrad at Penn, I’m studying architecture and computer science to bridge art and technology toward creating cutting-edge architecture that serves humanity. I’m fascinated by ways that machine learning can potentially capture aesthetic styles and preferences, or even generate new art, and what that means for humanity. Outside ChatLab, I develop computer vision for soccer-playing robots (UPennalizers), design the webpage for a magazine on art and tech (t-art), and various other odd jobs around campus. Just for fun, I love swing dancing, sketching, watching great movies, and reading anything and everything I can find!

Dillan Villavisanis

Dillan Villavisanis

Medical Student
 villavisad@chop.edu

Dillan Villavisanis is a Research Fellow in the Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In collaboration with the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, Dillan is using eye-tracking technology to measure visual attention on facial regions to guide craniofacial surgery in optimizing aesthetic outcomes. Dillan is an MD Candidate at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and completed a BA in Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. 


Alumni

Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Iftah Biran
  • Madhushree Chakrabarty
  • Evan Chen
  • Erin Conrad
  • Tilbe Göksun
  • Franziska Hartung
  • Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring
  • Anja Jamrozik
  • Yoed Kenett
  • Alexander Kranjec
  • Marguerite McQuire
  • Lorna Quandt
  • Raffaella Ricci
  • Gwenda Schmidt
  • Janice Snyder
  • Sara Waller
  • Christine Watson
  • Steve Weisberg
  • Adam Woods
  • Denise Wu

Visiting Researchers

  • Eliza Alawi
  • Bree Chancellor
  • Alex Coburn
  • Roberta Daini
  • Vicente Estrada-Gonzalez
  • Annika Hillebrandt
  • Ting Fung Ho
  • Juliane Mühlhaus
  • Alessandro Piedimonte
  • Diana Rosa-Leyra
  • Miriam Rosen
  • Sailee Shikhare
  • Guo Yuyue
  • Medical students
  • Lauren McCollum
  • Sashank Prasad

Medical Students

  • Nadir Bilici
  • Zack Zapatero

Graduate Students

  • Prin Amorapanth
  • Lindsey Bupp
  • Claire Dinh
  • Joe Kable
  • Sandeep Vaishnavi
  • Elaine Wencil

Postbaccalaureate Students

  • Daniel Badgio

Undergraduate & High School Students

  • Melissa Beswick
  • Mary Dumler
  • Georgia Gerike
  • Carla Goncalves
  • Adam Greenberg
  • Gürer Gündöndü
  • Geena Ianni
  • Adrianna Kashuba
  • Jonathan Kopelovich
  • Kate Lauber
  • Devi Majeske
  • Katsiaryna Malykhina
  • Sonali Mehta
  • Antonio Nicosia
  • Elizabeth Olson
  • Michelle Oraa Ali
  • Kelly Porter
  • Fiona Shaw
  • Charlie Siegel
  • Billy Smith
  • Ben van Buren
  • Yuchao Wang
  • Alex Yu

Lab Managers

  • Angela Armstrong
  • Bianca Bromberger
  • Jesse Calhoun
  • Matt Lehet
  • Joe Ptacek
  • Emily Rogers
  • Feyza Sancar
  • Kenneth Thompson
  • Page Widick
  • Ashley Wilson
  • Jonathan Yu

Patient Coordinators

  • Eileen Cardillo
  • Marianna Stark