The Brain on Art

The Brain on Art

◑ Art and Science combine in the incipient field of Neuroaesthetics. In 1900, Alois Riegl argued that art is completed by the perceptual and emotional involvement of the viewer. This view aligned art history with psychology. It followed that a work of art is inherently ambiguous and each person who sees it has a different interpretation. Your brain is a creativity machine that obtains incomplete information from the outside world and completes it.

◓ Some of this creative process has a structural basis, driven by the way the brain develops. Thus, the ability to be aesthetically moved is universal and common brain areas are activated across all humans. Other areas light up differently, reflecting the wide variety of emotional states associated with viewing art.

Assessing Aesthetics:  In one experiment, Oxford University researchers recorded blood flow in the brain (by fMRI) of subjects who saw a series of Rembrandt paintings that were labeled authentic or copy. Actually, the paintings were mixed up so that some were labeled incorrectly. But the visual areas of the brain that lit up were the same, whether the painting was real or a good copy – not surprising, since the average person would not be expected to tell them apart. What was surprising was that the label of authenticity triggered areas associated with perceptions of reward, pleasure and monetary gain.  The paintings thought to be inauthentic generated strong spikes in working memory, as the people were actively trying to detect the flaws in the presented image. Our aesthetic judgements are subject to a variety of different influences that may be inaccessible to direct introspection but are revealed by neuroimaging. Did you know that changing the price label on wine alters our taste perception? (

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56 Responses to The Brain on Art



  2. Rajini Rao says:

    Good Sunday, naceur mohamed 🙂

  3. Rajini Rao thanks , you too , dear friend good sunday

  4. Hi, Rajini Rao .  It’s like I always say:

    . . Appearances can be perceiving.

  5. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s a great thought, William McGarvey ! I’d love to quote you on that.

  6. Please do, Rajini Rao, and thank you.

  7. Good Morning Rajini Rao. This one is pretty!

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    Happy spring, Cheryl Ann MacDonald . I like the way the artist managed to capture these complicated biological structures with such a minimalist approach.

  9. Yes & I hope your Spring back east has arrived. I really like the embroidery one. Such talent Rajini Rao 

  10. Rajini Rao says:

    Yes, it has finally arrived and I am so glad to be out in the sunshine again 🙂

  11. 😀  Have a good Sunday now!  Play a little in the Spring.

  12. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, Ali Adelstein you too 🙂

  13. Sunil Bajpai says:

    My naive perception had been that when people knew the price, they factored it into their judgement (of wine or a piece of art). That’s pretended expertise, or a form or lying.

    But this story suggests that the actual experience might be enhanced by a piece of information in possession of another part of the brain.

    Well, why not? After all, distraction or fatigue tends to dull our enjoyment, just as sharing something with a loved one could enhance it. The modified experience is every bit as real as an unmodified one.

    Thanks for sharing the story, Rajini Rao!

  14. Rajini Rao says:

    Sunil Bajpai , I wonder if the same piece of art can evoke different response depending on the emotional or physical state of the viewer.

  15. Sunil Bajpai says:

    Yes, I should think so, Rajini Rao, although I struggle to think of a good example. 

    Maybe you, or one your wonderful followers, would have a point of view and an example to share. 🙂 

  16. Rajini Rao says:

    Music and the Brain are combined in this lovely video put together by a husband and wife team. One composed original music and the other put together a beautiful tomography of the brain. Here is Freefall through the Brain:

  17. Sangi Malk says:

    “Your brain is a creativity machine that obtains incomplete information from the outside world and completes it.”….and everyone completes it differently or is there a pattern to our thought process and we haven’t fingured it out yet?!

  18. Rajini Rao says:

    Sangita Mallick , from what I could understand, some patterns are common to all of us simply because that is the way our brain is built. But other patterns are unique because we each draw on different experiences and emotions to complete the process. Specific areas of the brain have been identified by various brain scanning techniques.

  19. Very good to see these, Rajini Rao. Thanks for posting!

  20. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed them, Tullio DeSantis !

  21. The last time art and science got along this well together they called it the Renaissance. =D

  22. Chad Haney says:

    Another great post Rajini Rao 

    Your wine comment made me think of the Judgement of Paris.

  23. Excellent information confirming long time observations and (informal) ‘field experiments’ I have conducted over the years in exhibit venues and galleries.  Thanks Rajini Rao 

  24. Rajini Rao says:

    John Christopher , thank you.I will confess that a lot of what I tried to read on neuroaesthetics went over my head 🙂 So, I kept it simple because that’s all I could do. Liddy Hubbell’s artwork was lovely, I thought.

  25. great post – thanks for sharing

  26.  events can go different way depending on what we preconcieved  about them,a lot depends on what we start with

  27. Great post Rajini Rao

  28. Rajini Rao says:

    Thank you, Sakis Koukouvis . Hope you have been well.

  29. Asha ambika says:

    its good think dr  nice aslo…..

  30. The Emperor’s new clothes   ….. just a fleeting thought early in the morn

  31. Arnav Kalra says:

    Beautiful. The artist is very talented.

  32. Rajini Rao says:

    Yes, unfortunately Arneïs Bohémond 🙂

    We are indeed susceptible to marketing and hype, to the great relief of advertisers everywhere.

  33. Guitar Dave says:

    Very complex and interesting , also how changing of the price label changes our perception of taste on bottles of wine . But most think you get what you pay for unless suprised by a Great inexpensive wine . Do you have a favorite and how was your day ?

  34. Rajini Rao says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Melanie Holzman !

  35. Guitar Dave says:

    The Brain has many many mysteries yet to understood , it is vast what we  don’t know and so little what we do know about the Brain .  Anything “Neuro”  gets my attention and is a good read . I thank you again for another wonderful piece . 

  36. Neuroaesthetics…very interesting for me… thanks for the post.

  37. Rajini Rao says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Alex Rey Riano 🙂

  38. your posts are all interesting, very informative and educational…thanks again, keep up the good work… Rajini Rao 

  39. Lance Kelly says: – Art for Art’s Sake Art is the impulse to replicate the mystery of woman and …

    An article on the purpose of art that you may enjoy.

    It’s called Art for Arts’ Sake

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