AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

The Neural Correlates of Aesthetic Appreciation

by Julius Wallenberg

Institution: University of Skövde
Year: 2016
Keywords: neuroaesthetics; aesthetics; art; appreciation; neuroscience; Natural Sciences; Naturvetenskap; Consciousness Studies - Philosophy and Neuropsychology; Medvetandestudier - filosofi och neuropsykologi; Cognitive Neuroscience; Kognitiv neurovetenskap
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2129547
Full text PDF: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:his:diva-12639


In everyday life, people all over the world come across art in some way, and the question of what constitutes an aesthetic experience has long been an interesting topic for humanistic and philosophical studies. Recently, neuroscientists have begun pinning down the neural correlates of artistic production and appreciation, sparking a whole new subfield within cognitive neuroscience, known as neuroaesthetics. Most studies have focused on the relationship between brain mechanisms and the appreciation of visual art, which has shown to be a meaningful and interesting complement to empirical aesthetics and psychology. By means of several modern measuring instruments and tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography, neuroscientists have successfully been able to observe specific brain activity in relation to specific aesthetic activities, such as viewing paintings or artworks. In this thesis, the supposed neural correlates of aesthetic appreciation are examined through critical investigations, where evidence from some of the more outstanding studies is reviewed and compared, as well as the different problems and complexities that the field is dealing with. Furthermore, the evolutionary history of aesthetic experiences and philosophical theories on aesthetics are also examined, as well as how certain neural deficits affect our cognitive and emotional abilities to appreciate art. The findings demonstrated in this thesis show that aesthetic appreciation is a multifaceted phenomenon, depending on specific neural interactions between bottom-up sensory processing areas, reward-related subcortical structures and top-down cortical processing areas, that all together form the experience of enjoying artworks across different sensory modalities.