Dynamics of aesthetic experience are reflected in the default-mode network

A.M. Belfi, Edward A. Vessel, Aenne Brielmann, Ayse Ilkay Isik, Anjan Chatterjee, Helmut Leder, Denis G. Pelli, G. Gabrielle Starr

Neuroaesthetics is a rapidly developing interdisciplinary field of research that aims to understand the neural substrates of aesthetic experience: While understanding
aesthetic experience has been an objective of philosophers for centuries, it has only more recently been embraced by neuroscientists. Recent work in neuroaesthetics
has revealed that aesthetic experience with static visual art engages visual, reward and default-mode networks. Very little is known about the temporal dynamics of
these networks during aesthetic appreciation. Previous behavioral and brain imaging research suggests that critical aspects of aesthetic experience have slow dynamics, taking more than a few seconds, making them amenable to study with fMRI. Here, we identified key aspects of the dynamics of aesthetic experience while
viewing art for various durations. In the first few seconds following image onset, activity in the DMN (and high-level visual and reward regions) was greater for very
pleasing images; in the DMN this activity counteracted a suppressive effect that grew longer and deeper with increasing image duration. In addition, for very pleasing
art, the DMN response returned to baseline in a manner time-locked to image offset. Conversely, for non-pleasing art, the timing of this return to baseline was
inconsistent. This differential response in the DMN may therefore reflect the internal dynamics of the participant's state: The participant disengages from art-related
processing and returns to stimulus-independent thought. These dynamics suggest that the DMN tracks the internal state of a participant during aesthetic experience.

Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology
External organisation(s)
Missouri University of Science and Technology, Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Pomona College
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology
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