Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Rend Fis Acc Lincei. (2012) 23:281-288: doi: 10.1007/s12210-012-0169-1

The beauty of the body

Aesthetics can be defined as our ability to perceive, feel and sense objects in the world and assign them positive or negative values along a continuum between beauty and ugliness. The psychological processes underlying the sense of what is beautiful or ugly imply perception and appraisal of objects of art, as well as emotional and interoceptive reactivity towards them. Exploration of the neural underpinnings of these processes is at the core of neuroaesthetics, a new cognitive neuroscience domain that aims to investigate the neural activity associated with feelings of pleasure or displeasure generated by either cognitive or sensuous interaction with a wide variety of objects that may thus become objects of art. We argue that the sensuous dimension of art appreciation calls into play the cerebral sensorimotor representation of one’s own and others’ bodies. Studies indicate that specific brain areas process perception of static or dynamic bodies. In the present article, we discuss two related issues (1) whether aesthetic visual appreciation of bodies is based on neural activity linked to visual body perception, beauty appreciation or both and (2) whether there exists a single cerebral locus where all possible types of aesthetic experiences ultimately converge.

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