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: 15.05). 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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    • "People experience beauty or ugliness in paintings, music, faces, and even mathematical formulae (Aharon et al., 2001; Ishizu and Zeki, 2011; Zeki et al., 2014). Interest has been growing over the past decade about how neural and cognitive systems generate the esthetic experience (Cela-Conde et al., 2004; Kawabata and Zeki, 2004; Leder et al., 2004; Vartanian and Goel, 2004). "
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    • "There is cross-cultural evidence [5] suggesting that perception of facial attractiveness is relatively independent of culture. Generally, attractive faces activate reward centers in the brain [6], they motivate sexual behavior and development of same-sex alliances [7], and they elicit positive treatment in various settings [8]. Therefore, having an attractive face may improve social, psychological, and sexual quality of life. "
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    • "In this sense, the cognitive neuroscience of aesthetics is a scientific quest to understand the neurocognitive and evolutionary underpinnings of the aesthetic experience of a broad range of objects, including, amongst others, appliances and other commonplace objects (Bar &amp; Neta, 2006;Izuma &amp; Adophs, 2013), graphic and industrial design (Reimann et al., 2010), mathematical concepts and proofs (Chatterjee, 2014acf. Hardy, 1940Zeki, Romaya, Benincasa, &amp; Atiyah, 2014), natural visual scenes (Tinio &amp; Leder, 2009), faces (Aharon et al., 2001;Chatterjee, Thomas, Smith, &amp; Aguirre, 2009;Winston, O&apos;Doherty, Kilner, Perrett, &amp; Dolan, 2007), scents, and tastes (Plassmann, O&apos;Doherty, Shiv, &amp; Rangel, 2008;Schifferstein, 2010) in addition to artworks (Cela-Conde et al., 2009;Lacey et al., 2011;Vartanian &amp; Goel, 2004). The emphasis here is on the aesthetic experience of these objects, understood as " emergent states, arising from interactions between sensory–motor, emotion–valuation, and meaning–knowledge neural systems " (Chatterjee &amp; Vartanian, 2014, p. 371) (see next section). "

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