About \\ Neuroscience Initiative

Meet the Team

PEM Contributors


Tedi Asher, PhD, is the neuroscience researcher at the Peabody Essex Museum. She joined PEM in 2017 after completing her doctoral degree in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program at Harvard Medical School. As the first neuroscientist on staff at an art museum, Asher helps to inform the exhibition design strategy by analyzing emerging neuroscientific findings and proposing recommendations to increase engagement and visitor impact. She has a long-standing interest in deciphering the mechanisms underlying human emotional experience, a pursuit she is actively engaged in at PEM.

Trevor Smith

Trevor Smith is Associate Director–Multisensory Experience and Curator of the Present Tense at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. He leads an initiative that collaborates with contemporary artists across the breadth of the museum’s activities to illuminate how creativity and cultural change emerge at the intersections of cultures, disciplines, or technologies.

Since arriving at PEM Smith has commissioned works and curated exhibitions with Carlos Garaicoa, Kimsooja, Candice Breitz, Michael Lin, Charles Sandison, Nick Cave, Susan Philipsz, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, and Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests. In 2018 he curated a major exhibition exploring the shifting role of play in contemporary art and culture.

Previous exhibitions include the Singapore Biennial 2011, Wrestle and Martin Creed: Feelings for the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College; Andrea Zittel: Critical Space and Brian Jungen for the New Museum, and The Divine Comedy: Francisco Goya, Buster Keaton, and William Kentridge for the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Perth International Arts Festival. He has produced over seventy exhibitions and has published widely in exhibition catalogues and journals in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.


Neuroscience Advisory Committee


Bevil Conway, PhD, is an artist and neuroscientist. His work investigates the relationship between visual processing, visual art, perception, cognition, art practice, and art history. He runs the section on Sensation, Cognition and Action in the Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research at the National Eye Institute and National Institute of Mental Health. Previously, Conway was an associate professor of neuroscience at Wellesley College and a principal research scientist in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences program at MIT. He is the author of Neural Mechanisms of Color Vision. Conway’s artwork has been exhibited in a number of solo exhibitions and curated group shows, and is held in collections at the Harvard Art Museums and the National Institutes of Health as well as many private collections.


Nancy Etcoff, PhD, is an assistant clinical professor at the Harvard Medical School, a faculty member of the Harvard University Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, and a psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital where she is the director of the Aesthetics and Well Being program. Etcoff conducts groundbreaking and highly cited scientific investigations in the psychology and neuroscience of emotion, and the psychology and biology of beauty and aesthetics. Her book, Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty, is the subject of a one-hour Discovery Channel documentary. Her 2004 TED Talk on happiness and its surprises has been viewed by over 1.4 million people.


Carl D. Marci, MD, is Chief Neuroscientist of Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience. He is a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty. Previously, he was Director of Social Neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital and visiting lecturer at the MIT Media Lab. Dr. Marci founded Innerscope Research, which was acquired by Nielsen in 2015. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed science journals, holds six patents, lectures nationally and internationally and is a pioneer in the new fields of social and consumer neuroscience.


The Neuroscience Initiative at PEM has been made possible by a generous grant from the Barr Foundation.


The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. Based in Boston, Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts, advance solutions for climate change, and help all young people succeed. Founded in 1997, Barr now has assets of $1.8 billion, and has contributed more than $911 million to charitable causes. For more information, visit barrfoundation.org or follow @BarrFdn on Twitter and Facebook.

In addition, PEM would like to acknowledge and thank all those who partnered with and contributed to the Neuroscience Initiative. Carl Marci and the team at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience collaborated on the first ever in-gallery biometrics pilot study at PEM. We thank Geoff Gill and the team at Shimmer Inc., who were instrumental collaborators in running the first full-fledged in-gallery neuroscience studies at PEM. Karen Kramer, Curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture, and Sarah Kennel, The Byrne Family Curator of Photography, helped to formulate relevant and testable hypotheses for studies performed in exhibitions they curated. Bridget Devlin, evaluation and interpretation planner, continues to provide invaluable input to study design and execution. Dave Seibert, director of exhibition design, and his team aided in the planning and execution of the neuroscience studies. Special thanks goes to Dan Lohnes, director of security, and the security staff as well as Matt Wilding, director of guest experience, and the guest experience team for accommodating in-gallery testing during several changing exhibitions. Derek O’Brien, director of creative services; Caroline Herr, digital media designer; Kathy Fredrickson, chief of curatorial affairs; and Rebecca Bednarz, exhibition research and publishing editor, were critical to the launch of this website.