Functional Neuroanatomy of the Perception of Modern Art. A Dc-Eeg-Study of the Influence of Stylistic information on Aesthetic Experience.

Authors/others:Fischmeister, Florian; Leder, Helmut; Bauer, Herbert
Abstract:The present study was conducted to determine the functional neuroanatomical correlates of aesthetic experience using slow cortical potentials (SCPs). Thirty participants without any particular background in the fine arts were presented with various representational (semi-abstract) and abstract paintings dating from the 20th and 21st century in two experimental conditions, i.e. with or without stylistic information. The paintings had to be rated by the participants in terms of understanding and aesthetic qualities. In order to identify the cortical structures involved, the SCPs were subjected to current density analysis using low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA). The comparison of representational and abstract paintings revealed significantly higher activation for representational artworks in several regions of the brain, predominantly in the left frontal lobe and bilaterally in the temporal lobes. According to the participants' reports, the representational artwork stimuli evoked more associations, accompanied by stronger activation of multimodal association areas in the temporal lobe. Furthermore, without stylistic information, the stimuli evoked stronger activation mainly in the left frontal and parietal lobes. Results also showed that stylistic information led to a better understanding of the paintings, but resulted in reduced cortical activation in the left hemisphere. This might have been due to less verbally oriented processing. These observations help explain the difficulties many beholders often have in appreciating abstract artworks.
Number of pages:10
Date of publication:2007
Journal title:Brain Research
Peer reviewed:true
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Publication Type:Article