Neural Correlates of Beauty, by Hideaki Kawabata and Semir Zeki
In 2004, Zeki and Hideaki Kawabata, a professor at Keio University in Japan, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology an article entitled “Neural Correlates of Beauty.” This brings us right to the heart of the neuroaesthetic enterprise: The topic is beauty, the methodology is brain imaging, and the main product is a correlation.
The purpose of the study was to find brain areas that would respond specifically to one category of painting (for example, the portrait) over others as well as brain areas that would be “consistently active” across subjects when they perceive a painting they judge beautiful or ugly. This strategy, the authors explained, allowed them to circumvent the question of how what an individual regards as ugly or beautiful is conditioned by culture, education, and inclination (Kawabata and Zeki 2004, 1699). As it turns out, since these factors cannot be switched off, the authors do not really circumvent them but just ignore them—and with them, most of what makes something be “art” or “aesthetic,” “beautiful” or “ugly.”null