Beauty in a smile: the role of medial orbitofrontal cortex in facial attractiveness

Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(2):147-55. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(02)00145-8.


The attractiveness of a face is a highly salient social signal, influencing mate choice and other social judgements. In this study, we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate brain regions that respond to attractive faces which manifested either a neutral or mildly happy face expression. Attractive faces produced activation of medial orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a region involved in representing stimulus-reward value. Responses in this region were further enhanced by a smiling facial expression, suggesting that the reward value of an attractive face as indexed by medial OFC activity is modulated by a perceiver directed smile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Smiling / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception
  • Visual Perception / physiology*