Poster E16, Monday, March 27, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Transient versus sustained neural responses to pleasurable aesthetic experiences
Amy Belfi1, Edward A. Vessel2, Denis G. Pelli1, Anjan Chatterjee3, Helmut Leder4, G. Gabrielle Starr1; 1New York University, 2Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, 3University of Pennsylvania, 4University of Vienna
Aesthetic experiences, such as listening to music or viewing artworks, are often highly pleasurable. Here, we sought to investigate the dynamic nature of aesthetic experience using fMRI. Participants (N=30) continuously rated their pleasure while viewing images of paintings. To further probe the timecourse of aesthetic experience, images were presented for various durations: 1s, 5s, or 15s. After each trial, participants gave an overall summary rating of their pleasure from the on a sliding scale. Trials were characterized as ‘high,’ ‘medium,’ or ‘low’ pleasure based on this overall rating. Presentation duration (1s, 5s, 15s) did not alter the overall proportion of images rated as high, medium, or low overall. It is remarkable that increasing duration from 1 to 15s did not increase the overall pleasure rating. The overall summary ratings were highly correlated with peaks of the continuous ratings. We performed ROI analyses investigating the timecourse of neural activity in sensory, emotion, and default mode regions, which have previously been implicated in aesthetic experience. We observe a transient response in the striatum following stimulus onset that is correlated with the end-of-trial pleasure rating at all three durations, showing greater response for high-rated trials. Conversely, in default mode network regions we observe differences between high- versus low-rated trials in the 15s presentation condition that linger beyond the end of the stimulus. These results indicate that aesthetic experience is represented differently across brain networks based on the degree of felt pleasure.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotional responding