Article

Beautiful Faces Have Variable Reward Value: fMRI and Behavioral Evidence.

Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Center, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02129, USA.
Neuron (Impact Factor: 15.98). 12/2001; 32(3):537-51. DOI: 10.1016/S0896-6273(01)00491-3
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The brain circuitry processing rewarding and aversive stimuli is hypothesized to be at the core of motivated behavior. In this study, discrete categories of beautiful faces are shown to have differing reward values and to differentially activate reward circuitry in human subjects. In particular, young heterosexual males rate pictures of beautiful males and females as attractive, but exert effort via a keypress procedure only to view pictures of attractive females. Functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T shows that passive viewing of beautiful female faces activates reward circuitry, in particular the nucleus accumbens. An extended set of subcortical and paralimbic reward regions also appear to follow aspects of the keypress rather than the rating procedures, suggesting that reward circuitry function does not include aesthetic assessment.

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Available from: Nancy L Etcoff, Aug 29, 2015
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    • "However, fMRI research investigating human responses to facial attractiveness has typically examined only linear responses within the various reward regions. Activation in LOFC and putamen increases with decreasing attractiveness (Cloutier, Heatherton, Whalen, & Kelley, 2008); activation in MOFC increases with increasing attractiveness (Cloutier et al., 2008; Kawataba & Zeki, 2004; O'Doherty et al., 2003), as does activation in striatum, including NAC (Aharon et al., 2001; Cloutier et al., 2008; Kampe, Frith, Dolan, & Frith, 2001), although the NAC effect was not replicated in a study that intermixed faces of both sexes (O'Doherty et al., 2003). The opposite linear effects in LOFC and putamen as compared with MOFC and striatum could be construed as reflecting a dissociation between processing of " punishment " in the former and " reward " in the latter. "
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    • "However, fMRI research investigating human responses to facial attractiveness has typically examined only linear responses within the various reward regions. Activation in LOFC and putamen increases with decreasing attractiveness (Cloutier, Heatherton, Whalen, & Kelley, 2008); activation in MOFC increases with increasing attractiveness (Cloutier et al., 2008; Kawataba & Zeki, 2004; O'Doherty et al., 2003), as does activation in striatum, including NAC (Aharon et al., 2001; Cloutier et al., 2008; Kampe, Frith, Dolan, & Frith, 2001), although the NAC effect was not replicated in a study that intermixed faces of both sexes (O'Doherty et al., 2003). The opposite linear effects in LOFC and putamen as compared with MOFC and striatum could be construed as reflecting a dissociation between processing of " punishment " in the former and " reward " in the latter. "
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    • "The motivational value of facial beauty has been evidenced both by laboratory-based research (e.g., Levy et al., 2008) and by numerous neuroimaging studies (e.g., Aharon et al., 2001; Kampe et al., 2001; O'Doherty et al., 2003; Kranz and Ishai, 2006; Ishai, 2007). More specifically, functional brain imaging studies have shown that facial beauty evokes activation in brain regions that are involved in stimulus-reward associations (e.g., in the orbitofrontal cortex or the ventral striatum) and thus form key structures that support affect and emotion. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present work explores the unconscious and/or conscious nature of learning attractive faces of same and opposite sex, that is, of stimuli that experimental and neuroimaging research has shown to be rewarding and thus highly motivating. To this end, we examined performance of men and women while classifying strings of average and attractive faces for grammaticality in the experimental task of artificial grammar learning (AGL), which reflects both conscious and unconscious processes. Subjective measures were used to assess participants' conscious and unconscious knowledge. It was found that female attractiveness impaired performance in male participants. In particular, male participants demonstrated the lowest accuracy while classifying beautiful faces of women. Conversely, female attractiveness facilitated performance in female participants. The pattern was similar for conscious and unconscious knowledge. Presumably, objects with high incentive salience, as are beautiful faces, captured resources, which were used in task relevant versus task irrelevant ways by women versus men. The present findings shed light on the relation of conscious and unconscious processing with affective and reward-related stimuli, as well as on gender differences underlying this relation.
    Frontiers in Psychology 08/2015; 6. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01124 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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