Beauty and the brain: culture, history and individual differences in aesthetic appreciation

J Anat. 2010 Feb;216(2):184-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2009.01164.x. Epub 2009 Nov 19.


Human aesthetic processing entails the sensation-based evaluation of an entity with respect to concepts like beauty, harmony or well-formedness. Aesthetic appreciation has many determinants ranging from evolutionary, anatomical or physiological constraints to influences of culture, history and individual differences. There are a vast number of dynamically configured neural networks underlying these multifaceted processes of aesthetic appreciation. In the current challenge of successfully bridging art and science, aesthetics and neuroanatomy, the neuro-cognitive psychology of aesthetics can approach this complex topic using a framework that postulates several perspectives, which are not mutually exclusive. In this empirical approach, objective physiological data from event-related brain potentials and functional magnetic resonance imaging are combined with subjective, individual self-reports.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Art / history*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Creativity
  • Culture
  • Esthetics / history
  • Esthetics / psychology*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychology / history
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*