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 the Frank A. and Gwladys H. Elliott Professor and Chair of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital and the founding director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics. He is a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his BA in Philosophy from Haverford College, MD from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his neurology residency at the University of Chicago.

His clinical practice focuses on patients with cognitive disorders. His research addresses questions about spatial cognition and language, attention, neuroethics, and 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 is or has been on the editorial boards of: American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, Behavioural Neurology, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Neuropsychology, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, European Neurology, Empirical Studies of the Arts, The Open Ethics Journal and Policy Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology. He was awarded the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology and the Rudolph Arnheim Prize for contributions to Psychology and the Arts by the American Psychological Association. 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 has served on the boards of the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and the Associated services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He currently serves on the Boards of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and Haverford College.

Anjan Chatterjee is author of the book, The Aesthetic Brain.

CV for Anjan Chatterjee


Staff

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.

Erin Conrad

Erin Conrad

Neurology Resident
 erin.conrad@uphs.upenn.edu

I am interested in ethical decision making and finding out what factors influence our understanding of ethical questions. I completed an M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics of Health at University College London, where I studied the ethics of research on large groups as well as the ethics of conscientious objection in medicine. I then completed my M.D. at University of Michigan. I am now a neurology resident at Penn.

Franziska Hartung

Franziska Hartung

Postdoctoral Researcher

Franziska received her PhD degree in cognitive neuroscience from the Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the Radboud University (Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour) in the Netherlands. Her research projects centered around the question of how context shapes meaning and experience and its underlying neural mechanisms. She is working on various aspects of story comprehension, event processing, aesthetic and affective responses to literary texts and as of recent human faces which includes exploratory work on person perception and stigma.

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.

Yoed Kenett

Yoed Kenett

Postdoctoral Researcher
 yoedkenett@gmail.com

I have a Ph.D. (2015) in neuroscience from Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Currently I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, working at the labs of Dr. Sharon Thompson-Schill and Dr. Anjan Chatterjee. My research computationally and empirically investigates the structure of semantic memory (our memory of knowledge and facts) and how it constrains cognitive processes operating over it, in typical and clinical populations. I then apply neurocognitive empirical methods to study these quantitative findings. Here at Penn, I am gaining experience in neuroimaging research, applying network neuroscience methods to study creativity. In parallel, I am exploring further cognitive domains, such as conceptual combinations and aesthetic perception. A few of my current projects address topics on the conceptual representation of beauty and well-being, aesthetic emotions, dynamics of semantic memory, and the neural dynamics of generating and evaluating creative ideas.

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

Nadir Bilici

Nadir Bilici

Medical Student

After studying neurobiology at UC Berkeley, I worked as a product manager developing health & fitness apps in Palo Alto. I am now a fourth year medical student at Perelman School of Medicine and am interested in the intersection of technology and medicine. In the ChatLab, I am researching how implicit biases are shaped by our perception of facial features. Beyond the lab and clinic, I develop mobile apps, teach culinary medicine, and get outside as much as possible to hike, camp, ski, and play frisbee.

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.

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.

Charlie Siegel

Charlie Siegel

Undergraduate Student
 csiegel@haverford.edu

I am a Senior at Haverford college, pursuing a B.A in Psychology along with a minor in Neuroscience. My past experiences stem from an interest in medicine and healthcare. Previously, at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, I worked as a research assistant in the Neurosciences Critical Care Unit, where I explored the challenges of extubating patients with acute neurological injury who are often intubated for airway protection. My curiosity in how clinical neuroscience interfaces cognitive science has informed my work here at ChatLab, where I am studying the relationship between neuroaesthetics and cognitive enhancement as part of my Senior Thesis. More specifically, I am interested in how incidental social information can impact our moral attitudes about cognitive enhancement. After completing my undergraduate degree, I will be attending Sidney Kimmel Medical School at Jefferson University, where I will also be exploring my research interests in health policy as part of the curriculum’s population health critical inquiry track.

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!

Yuchao Wang

Yuchao Wang

Undergraduate Student

Yuchao Wang is pursuing his B.A. in cognitive science at Haverford College. He currently conducts thesis research in ChatLab on how the brain responds to literariness in stories. Before this exciting journey in neuroaesthetics, he has researched on the biophysics of peacock feathers as perceived through avian and mammalian vision, which has evolutionary implications. In his free time, he enjoys Bach on Youtube and puppies on Instagram.

Zack Zapatero

Zack Zapatero

Medical Student
 zachary.zapatero@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Zack Zapatero is a 4th year medical student at The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. During his time at Penn, his passion for academic plastic surgery has flourished and has led him to take a year off of medical school to be a plastic surgery clinical research fellow at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In an exciting collaboration between the ChatLab and CHOP plastic surgery, Zack is exploring how eye-tracking can be used to identify hot spot regions of the face to guide craniofacial surgeries to maximize patient aesthetic outcomes.


Alumni

Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Iftah Biran
  • Madhushree Chakrabarty
  • Evan Chen
  • Tilbe Göksun
  • Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring
  • Anja Jamrozik
  • 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

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
  • Billy Smith
  • Alex Yu
  • Ben van Buren

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