Beauty And The Brain: Researchers Analyze How We Appreciate Natural Landscapes

Researchers investigated how our brains proceed from merely seeing a landscape to feeling its aesthetic impact. Image Credit: MPI for Empirical Aesthetics

How does our brain determine that a landscape is beautiful? Scientists have now got a better idea. Researchers have used neuroimaging to track how and where the idea that a landscape is beautiful forms in the brain, and how it goes from the visual signals to activate the reward system.

As reported in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the scientists had 24 volunteers look at videos of natural landscapes while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This tracks brain activity so that they could follow exactly what happened.

“We would have expected the aesthetic signals to be limited to the brain’s reward systems, but surprisingly, we found them already present in visual areas of the brain while the participants were watching the videos. The activations occurred right next to brain regions deployed in recognizing physical features in movies, such as the layout of a scene or the presence of motion,” first author A. Ilkay Isik, from The Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, said in a statement.

The researchers suggest that maybe these signals may reflect an early, elemental form of beauty perception in our brain.

“When we see something beyond our expectations, local patches of brain tissue generate small ‘atoms’ of positive affect. The combination of many such surprise signals across the visual system adds up to make for an aesthetically appealing experience,” senior author Edward Vessel explained.

it turns out that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also in their brains.



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