• Open Access

The brain's specialized systems for aesthetic and perceptual judgment

Authors

  • T. Ishizu,

    Corresponding author
    1. Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK
    • Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology, University College London, London, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • S. Zeki

    Corresponding author
    1. Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK
    • Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology, University College London, London, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

Correspondences: T. Ishizu and S. Zeki, as above.

E-mails: t.ishizu@ucl.ac.uk and zeki.pa@ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

We recorded brain activity when 21 subjects judged the beauty (aesthetic or affective judgment) and brightness (perceptual or cognitive judgment) of simultaneously presented paintings. Aesthetic judgments engaged medial and lateral subdivisions of the orbitofrontal cortex as well as subcortical stations associated with affective motor planning (globus pallidus, putamen–claustrum, amygdala, and cerebellar vermis), whereas the motor, premotor and supplementary motor areas, as well as the anterior insula and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, were engaged by both kinds of judgment. The results lead us to conclude: (i) that there is a functional specialization for judgment, with aesthetic judgments engaging distinct systems, in addition to those that they share with perceptual judgments; (ii) that the systems engaged by affective judgments are those in which activity correlates with polar experiences (e.g. love–hate, beauty–ugliness, and attraction–repulsion); and (iii) that there is also a functional specialization in the motor pathways, with aesthetic judgments engaging motor systems not engaged by perceptual judgments, in addition to those engaged by both kinds of judgment.

Ancillary