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Beauty & Brains

August 2, 2011

One area of the brain becomes active when we experience beauty.



Beauty in the brain…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

People have disagreed about what constitutes beautiful artwork for millenia. But while beauty may be in the eye – or ear – of the beholder, the things we personally find beautiful activate the same brain region in everyone. This according to University College London neuroscientists Tomohiro Ishizu and Semir Zeki. They had volunteeers rate pieces of music and art as beautiful or ugly on a scale of 1 to 10. Then they scanned the volunteers’ brains as they experienced the same artworks again. Zeki says an area of the brain called the medial orbital frontal cortex was activated by the artworks that they had already judged as beautiful.

SEMIR ZEKI (University College London):

What you might find beautiful is not what I might find breautiful, but what is common to your brain and mine, is that there is going to be activity in the medial orbital frontal cortex.


Zeki says this area of the brain is also known to play an important role in our experience of pleasure and reward. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.