What do you feel when you see or hear something beautiful? I’m sure that you can describe your subjective experience, but the question is – what is happening in your brain while you enjoy a striking piece of art or a harmonious melody?

According to British scientists, each time you admire the beauty of a work of art or a musical piece, a particular area in front of the brain “lights up”.

Researchers at the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology of the University College London (UCL) published a paper in the PLoS One magazine where they claimed that seeing or hearing something that we consider beautiful activates the same brain area.

“So the question arises of whether we have an innate abstract sense of beauty, which can cause a strong emotional excitation – whether its source is visual or auditory. It’s time to answer it”, says Professor Semir Zeki.

The study involved a total of 21 volunteers from different cultural backgrounds, who were asked to evaluate a series of paintings and music melodies as beautiful, neutral, or bad.

Then the experts showed them pictures or played them music while they were subjected to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record the activity of their brain.

They saw that the area of the middle orbitofrontal cortex, a part that is a pleasure and reward center of the brain, “lights up” more strongly when the subjects saw or heard something that they had previously described as “beautiful.”

Previously, the middle orbitofrontal cortex had already been associated with the appreciation of beauty. However, this is the first time that scientists were able to see that visual and auditory stimuli associated with beauty activate the same brain region. This suggests that there may exist an innate cerebral understanding of beauty.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and its perception differs from person to person, but it turns out that the human brain responds in a similar way to anything that it considers beautiful.

Anna LeMind, B.A.

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