Neural correlates of visual aesthetic appreciation: insights from non-invasive brain stimulation

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During the last decade, non-invasive brain stimulation techniques have been increasingly employed in the field of neuroaesthetics research to shed light on the possible causal role of different brain regions contributing to aesthetic appreciation. Here, I review studies that have employed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to investigate neurocognitive mechanisms mediating visual aesthetic appreciation for different stimuli categories (faces, bodies, paintings). The review first considers studies that have assessed the possible causal contribution of cortical regions in mediating aesthetic appreciation along the visual ventral and dorsal pathways (i.e., the extrastriate body area, the motion-sensitive region V5/MT+ , the lateral occipital complex and the posterior parietal cortex). It then considers TMS and tDCS studies that have targeted premotor and motor regions, as well as other areas involved in body and facial expression processing (such as the superior temporal sulcus and the somatosensory cortex) to assess their role in aesthetic evaluation. Finally, it discusses studies that have targeted medial and dorsolateral prefrontal regions leading to significant changes in aesthetic appreciation for both biological stimuli (faces and bodies) and artworks. Possible mechanisms mediating stimulation effects on aesthetic judgments are discussed. A final section considers both methodological limitations of the reviewed studies (including levels of statistical power and the need for further replication) and the future potential for non-invasive brain stimulation to significantly contribute to the understanding of the neural bases of visual aesthetic experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


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