Article Summary by Tudor Balinisteanu
The medical humanities research carried out in our Neuroaesthetics Lab at University of Suceava asks whether art that engenders awareness of one’s embodied life is healthier than art that fosters statuary ideals. We argue that sacrificing mindfulness of one’s own embodied life in favour of spiritual or idealistic purpose can become unhealthy and that poetry and dance can help establish a balance between purpose-in-life and affective empathy. This is not to say that purposeful idealism is wrong, indeed, we need it in order to set morally viable goals and design strategies to achieve these. However, empathy and closeness, which require in-person presence, are equally important for one’s mental health and wellbeing. Art brings depth to our understanding of the ways in which we may instil the warmth of touch, voice, or affective gaze, into behaviour scenarios that would otherwise remain sterile, no matter how perfect the ideals they are meant to help us reach.
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Tudor Balinisteanu is currently researching empathy as studied within neuroaesthetics, psychology of the arts, and developmental psychology frameworks. The focus on empathy is developed through a number of international collaborative research projects. Thus, he is leading PoeticA, an international Romanian-Norwegian research consortium project on the biological universals of the aesthetic experience of poetry, in which neural entrainment to rhythm and conceptual metaphors engendering anticipation of reward are major topics. He is equally invested in research on the origins of dance in mutual entrainment, and on how mutual entrainment underpins the experience of empathy in adult life. He is also working in a team developing empathic visual identities for medical AIs, aiming to create a joint US-Romanian spin-off entity within the VIVAET (Visual identities of Virtual Agents with Empathic Traits) project. Other major research interests are linked to medical humanities and mental health, and are connected to empathy engendered in partnered dance in pairs, especially improvisation. Previously he has worked in literary studies specializing at doctoral level in contemporary Scottish and Irish women’s writing, and at postdoctoral level in Irish modernism, especially W. B. Yeats and James Joyce. Tudor Balinisteanu has established the first Neuroaesthetics Lab in Romania, at the University of Suceava. The Lab’s research outcomes will inform the development of the first neuroaesthetics course in Romania.