One of the world's leading neuroscientists has been granted £1 million to seek the biological basis for love, beauty and creativity.
The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, will bring together science, philosophy and the arts to attempt to answer age-old questions about the nature of the human condition.
Semir Zeki from University College London will lead the research in the relatively new field of neuroesthetics. The work will consider questions once seen as the sole concern of philosophers, such as the nature of happiness, the objectivity of beauty and the causes of love.
Professor Zeki believes that if successful his research will have an impact across academia. He aims to attract an interdisciplinary team of students and researchers from the sciences, arts and humanities.
He said: "All human societies place a high premium on art and the pursuit of beauty. We all value and reward creativity. We all want to pursue happiness. But what do these entities mean in neurobiological terms? We hope to address these issues.
"The results will not only increase our knowledge about the workings of the human brain but will also give insights into human nature and how we view ourselves."
"The new field of neuroesthetics will teach biologists to use the products of the brain in art, music, literature and mathematics to better understand how the brain functions."
Professor Zeki is head of the Institute of Neuroesthetics at UCL and has previously published papers on the neural mechanisms behind beauty and love.
He will be aided in the research by Ray Dolan, director of the Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL.