Advertisement

Rendiconti Lincei

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 281–288 | Cite as

The beauty of the body

  • Salvatore M. Aglioti
  • Ilaria Minio-Paluello
  • Matteo Candidi
Interplay of the Two Cultures: Neuroaesthetics

Abstract

Aesthetics can be defined as our ability to perceive, feel and sense objects in the world and assign them positive or negative values along a continuum between beauty and ugliness. The psychological processes underlying the sense of what is beautiful or ugly imply perception and appraisal of objects of art, as well as emotional and interoceptive reactivity towards them. Exploration of the neural underpinnings of these processes is at the core of neuroaesthetics, a new cognitive neuroscience domain that aims to investigate the neural activity associated with feelings of pleasure or displeasure generated by either cognitive or sensuous interaction with a wide variety of objects that may thus become objects of art. We argue that the sensuous dimension of art appreciation calls into play the cerebral sensorimotor representation of one’s own and others’ bodies. Studies indicate that specific brain areas process perception of static or dynamic bodies. In the present article, we discuss two related issues (1) whether aesthetic visual appreciation of bodies is based on neural activity linked to visual body perception, beauty appreciation or both and (2) whether there exists a single cerebral locus where all possible types of aesthetic experiences ultimately converge.

Keywords

Neuroaesthetics Body representations Embodiment Sensorimotor simulation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The financial contribution of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) SEED (Prot. Num. 21538), and the EU-FP7, Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Tango FET-Open Grant number: 249858, is gratefully acknowledged.

References

  1. Aglioti S, Smania N, Manfredi M, Berlucchi G (1996) Disownership of left hand and objects related to it in a patient with right brain damage. NeuroReport 8:293–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berlucchi G, Aglioti S (1997) The body in the brain: neural bases of corporeal awareness. Trends Neurosci 20(12):560–564 (review)Google Scholar
  3. Berlucchi G, Aglioti SM (2010) The body in the brain revisited. Exp Brain Res 2000(1):25–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blanke O, Landis T (2003) The metaphysical art of Giorgio de Chirico. Migraine or epilepsy? Eur Neurol 50(4):191–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blanke O, Pasqualini I (2011) The riddle of style changes in the visual arts after interference with the right brain. Front Hum Neurosci 5:154Google Scholar
  6. Blood AJ, Zatorre RJ (2001) Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:11818–11823CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown S, Gao X, Tisdelle L, Eickhoff SB, Liotti M (2011) Naturalizing aesthetics: brain areas for aesthetic appraisal across sensory modalities. Neuroimage 58:250–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calvo-Merino B, Glaser DE, Grèzes J, Passingham RE, Haggard P (2005) Action observation and acquired motor skills: an FMRI study with expert dancers. Cereb Cortex 15:1243–1249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calvo-Merino B, Grèzes J, Glaser DE, Passingham RE, Haggard P (2006) Seeing or doing? Influence of visual and motor familiarity in action observation. Curr Biol 16:1905–1910CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Calvo-Merino B, Jola C, Glaser DE, Haggard P (2008) Towards a sensorimotor aesthetics of performing art. Conscious Cogn 17:911–922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Candidi M, Urgesi C, Ionta S, Aglioti SM (2008) Virtual lesion of ventral premotor cortex impairs visual perception of biomechanically possible but not impossible actions. Soc Neurosci 3:388–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Candidi M, Stienen BM, Aglioti SM, de Gelder B (2011) Event-related repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation of posterior superior temporal sulcus improves the detection of threatening postural changes in human bodies. J Neurosci 31:17547–17554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Candidi M, Aglioti SM, Haggard P (2012) Embodying bodies and worlds. Rev Phil Psych. doi: 10.1007/s13164-012-0091-6
  14. Cela-Conde CJ, Marty G, Maestú F, Ortiz T, Munar E, Fernández A, Roca M, Rosselló J, Quesney F (2004) Activation of the prefrontal cortex in the human visual aesthetic perception. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101:6321–6325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cela-Conde CJ, Agnati L, Huston JP, Mora F, Nadal M (2011) The neural foundations of aesthetic appreciation. Prog Neurobiol 94:39–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chatterjee A (2011) Neuroaesthetics: a coming of age story. J Cogn Neurosci 23:53–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chiao JY (2009) Cultural neuroscience: a once and future discipline. Prog Brain Res 178:287–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cross ES, Hamilton AF, Grafton ST (2006) Building a motor simulation de novo: observation of dance by dancers. Neuroimage 1(31):1257–1267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cross ES, Kirsch L, Ticini LF, Schütz-Bosbach S (2011) The impact of aesthetic evaluation and physical ability on dance perception. Front Hum Neurosci 5:102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cupchik GC, Vartanian O, Crawley A, Mikulis DJ (2009) Viewing artworks: contributions of cognitive control and perceptual facilitation to aesthetic experience. Brain Cogn 70(1):84–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. de Gelder B (2006) Towards the neurobiology of emotional body language. Nat Rev Neurosci 7(3):242–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. de Gelder B, Snyder J, Greve D, Gerard G, Hadjikhani N (2004) Fear fosters flight: a mechanism for fear contagion when perceiving emotion expressed by a whole body. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101(47):16701–16706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Di Dio C, Macaluso E, Rizzolatti G (2007) The golden beauty: brain response to classical and renaissance sculptures. PLoSONE 11:e1201Google Scholar
  24. Di Dio C, Canessa N, Cappa SF, Rizzolatti G (2011) Specificity of esthetic experience for artworks: an fMRI study. Front Human Neurosci 5. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00139
  25. Downing PE, Jiang Y, Shuman M, Kanwisher N (2001) A cortical area selective for visual processing of the human body. Science 293:2470–2473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fourkas AD, Bonavolontà V, Avenanti A, Aglioti SM (2008) Kinesthetic imagery and tool-specific modulation of corticospinal representations in expert tennis players. Cereb Cortex 18:2382–2390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frazzetto G, Anker S (2009) Neuroculture. Nat Rev Neurosci 10:815–821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gallese V (2003) The manifold nature of interpersonal relations: the quest for a common mechanism. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 358:517–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Giummarra MJ, Bradshaw JL, Nicholls ME, Hilti LM, Brugger P (2011) Body integrity identity disorder: deranged body processing, right fronto-parietal dysfunction, and phenomenological experience of body incongruity. Neuropsychol Rev 21:320–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Grèzes J, Pichon S, de Gelder B (2007) Perceiving fear in dynamic body expressions. Neuroimage 35(2):959–967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grossman ED, Battelli L, Pascual-Leone A (2005) Repetitive TMS over posterior STS disrupts perception of biological motion. Vis Res 45(22):2847–2853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hadjikhani N, de Gelder B (2003) Seeing fearful body expressions activates the fusiform cortex and amygdala. Curr Biol 13(24):2201–2205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ishizu T, Zeki S (2011) Toward a brain-based theory of beauty. PLoS ONE 6:e21852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jacobsen T (2010) Beauty and the brain: culture, history and individual differences in aesthetic appreciation. J Anat 216:184–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jacobsen T, Buchta K, Köhler M, Schröger E (2004) The primacy of beauty in judging the aesthetics of objects. Psychol Rep 94:1253–1260Google Scholar
  36. Jacobsen T, Schubotz RI, Höfel L, Cramon DY (2006) Brain correlates of aesthetic judgment of beauty. Neuroimage 29:276–285. Erratum in Neuroimage 2006 32:486–487Google Scholar
  37. Johnston VS (2006) Mate choice decisions: the role of facial beauty. Trends Cogn Sci 10:9–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kawabata H, Zeki S (2004) Neural correlates of beauty. J Neurophysiol 91:1699–1705CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lacey S, Hagtvedt H, Patrick VM, Anderson A, Silla R, Deshpande G et al (2011) Art for reward’s sake: visual art recruits the ventral striatum. Neuroimage 55:420–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Leder H, Belke B, Oeberst A, Augustin D (2004) A model of aesthetic appreciation and aesthetic judgments. Br J Psychol 95:489–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Little AC, Jones BC, DeBruine LM (2011) Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 366(1571):1638–1659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Magherini G (2003) La sindrome di Stendhal. Il malessere del viaggiatore di fronte alla grandezza dell’arte, Ponte alle GrazieGoogle Scholar
  43. McGeoch PD, Brang D, Song T, Lee RR, Huang M, Ramachandran VS (2011) Xenomelia: a new right parietal lobe syndrome. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry Jun 21 [Epub ahead of print]Google Scholar
  44. McManus IC, Weatherby P (1997) The golden section and the aesthetics of form and composition: a cognitive model. Empirical Studies Arts 15:209–232Google Scholar
  45. Moro V, Urgesi C, Pernigo S, Lanteri P, Pazzaglia M, Aglioti SM (2008) The neural basis of body form and body action agnosia. Neuron 60:235–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pascual-Leone A, Walsh V, Rothwell J (2000) Transcranial magnetic stimulation in cognitive neuroscience—virtual lesion, chronometry, and functional connectivity. Curr Opin Neurobiol 10:232–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Peelen MV, Downing PE (2005) Selectivity for the human body in the fusiform gyrus. J Neurophysiol 93:603–608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pihko E, Virtanen A, Saarinen VM, Pannasch S, Hirvenkari L, Tossavainen T, Haapala A, Hari R (2011) Experiencing art: the influence of expertise and painting abstraction level. Front Hum Neurosci 5:94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pitcher D, Charles L, Devlin JT, Walsh V, Duchaine B (2009) Triple dissociation of faces, bodies, and objects in extrastriate cortex. Curr Biol 19:319–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ramachandran VS, Brang D, McGeoch PD, Rosar W (2009) Sexual and food preference in apotemnophilia and anorexia: interactions between ‘beliefs’ and ‘needs’ regulated by two-way connections between body image and limbic structures. Perception 38:775–777CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Salimpoor VN, Benovoy M, Larcher K, Dagher A, Zatorre RJ (2011) Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nat Neurosci (in press)Google Scholar
  52. Serino A, Bassolino M, Farnè A, Làdavas E (2007) Extended multisensory space in blind cane users. Psychol Sci 18:642–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sforza A, Bufalari I, Haggard P, Aglioti SM (2010) My face in yours: visuo-tactile facial stimulation influences sense of identity. Soc Neurosci 2:148–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stendhal (1817) Rome, Naples et Florence, en 1817, Paris, DelaunayGoogle Scholar
  55. Tamietto M, de Gelder B (2010) Neural bases of the non-conscious perception of emotional signals. Nat Rev Neurosci 11(10):697–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tamietto M, Geminiani G, Genero R, de Gelder B (2007) Seeing fearful body language overcomes attentional deficits in patients with neglect. J Cogn Neurosci 19(3):445–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Thornhill R, Gangestad SW (1999) Facial attractiveness. Trends Cogn Sci 3(12):452–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tsukiura T, Cabeza R (2011) Remembering beauty: roles of orbitofrontal and hippocampal regions in successful memory encoding of attractive faces. Neuroimage 54:653–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Urgesi C, Berlucchi G, Aglioti SM (2004) Magnetic stimulation of extrastriate body area impairs visual processing of nonfacial body parts. Curr Biol 14:2130–2134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Urgesi C, Calvo-Merino B, Haggard P, Aglioti SM (2007a) Transcranial magnetic stimulation reveals two cortical pathways for visual body processing. J Neurosci 27:8023–8030CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Urgesi C, Candidi M, Ionta S, Aglioti SM (2007b) Representation of body identity and body actions in extrastriate body area and ventral premotor cortex. Nat Neurosci 10:30–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vartanian O, Goel V (2004) Neuroanatomical correlates of aesthetic preference for paintings. NeuroReport 15:893–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zaidel DW (2010) Art and brain: insights from neuropsychology, biology and evolution. J Anat 216:177–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zajonc RB (1968) Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. J Personality Social Psychol 9, Monograph Supplement No. 2, Part 2Google Scholar
  65. Zeki S (1999) Inner vision: an exploration of art and the brain. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  66. Zeki S (2001) Essays on science and society. Artistic creativity and the brain. Science 293:51–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salvatore M. Aglioti
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ilaria Minio-Paluello
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matteo Candidi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySapienza UniversityRomeItaly
  2. 2.IRCCS Santa LuciaRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations