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Brain Cogn. 2009 Mar;69(2):306-15. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2008.08.004. Epub 2008 Sep 9.

Brain correlates of aesthetic expertise: a parametric fMRI study.

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Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Kettegaard Allé 30, DK-2650 Hvidovre, Denmark.


Several studies have demonstrated that acquired expertise influences aesthetic judgments. In this paradigm we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study aesthetic judgments of visually presented architectural stimuli and control-stimuli (faces) for a group of architects and a group of non-architects. This design allowed us to test whether level of expertise modulates neural activity in brain areas associated with either perceptual processing, memory, or reward processing. We show that experts and non-experts recruit bilateral medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and subcallosal cingulate gyrus differentially during aesthetic judgment, even in the absence of behavioural aesthetic rating differences between experts and non-experts. By contrast, activity in nucleus accumbens (NAcc) exhibits a differential response profile compared to OFC and subcallosal cingulate gyrus, suggesting a dissociable role between these regions in the reward processing of expertise. Finally, categorical responses (irrespective of aesthetic ratings) resulted in expertise effects in memory-related areas such as hippocampus and precuneus. These results highlight the fact that expertise not only modulates cognitive processing, but also modulates the response in reward related brain areas.

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