The neural response to facial attractiveness

Neuropsychology. 2009 Mar;23(2):135-43. doi: 10.1037/a0014430.


What are the neural correlates of attractiveness? Using functional MRI (fMRI), the authors addressed this question in the specific context of the apprehension of faces. When subjects judged facial beauty explicitly, neural activity in a widely distributed network involving the ventral occipital, anterior insular, dorsal posterior parietal, inferior dorsolateral, and medial prefrontal cortices correlated parametrically with the degree of facial attractiveness. When subjects were not attending explicitly to attractiveness, but rather were judging facial identity, the ventral occipital region remained responsive to facial beauty. The authors propose that this region, which includes the fusiform face area (FFA), the lateral occipital cortex (LOC), and medially adjacent regions, is activated automatically by beauty and may serve as a neural trigger for pervasive effects of attractiveness in social interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Beauty*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods
  • Face*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen