Beauty hits brain pleasure centre

BEAUTY is in the brain of the beholder, according to a study showing people’s medial orbito­frontal cortex (mOFC) lights up when they find a piece of art or music beautiful.

Twenty-one volunteers from various cultures were asked to view pictures of paintings and listen to musical excerpts, then to rate the items as beautiful, indifferent or ugly.

Their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, which showed the reward and pleasure centre of the brain was more active when subjects experienced beauty.

Another finding was that activity in the caudate nucleus – which had been previously correlated in studies with romantic love – increased in proportion to the relative beauty of a painting, but no activity was observed with beautiful music.

The researchers proposed a “brain-based theory of beauty” involving a change in strength of activity within the mOFC.

“Our proposal