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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 20;101(16):6321-5. Epub 2004 Apr 12.

Activation of the prefrontal cortex in the human visual aesthetic perception.

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Laboratorio de Sistemática Humana, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Carretera de Valldemossa s/n, 07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain.


Visual aesthetic perception ("aesthetics") or the capacity to visually perceive a particular attribute added to other features of objects, such as form, color, and movement, was fixed during human evolutionary lineage as a trait not shared with any great ape. Although prefrontal brain expansion is mentioned as responsible for the appearance of such human trait, no current knowledge exists on the role of prefrontal areas in the aesthetic perception. The visual brain consists of "several parallel multistage processing systems, each specialized in a given task such as, color or motion" [Bartels, A. & Zeki, S. (1999) Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 265, 2327-2332]. Here we report the results of an experiment carried out with magnetoencephalography which shows that the prefrontal area is selectively activated in humans during the perception of objects qualified as "beautiful" by the participants. Therefore, aesthetics can be hypothetically considered as an attribute perceived by means of a particular brain processing system, in which the prefrontal cortex seems to play a key role.

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