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      Specificity of Esthetic Experience for Artworks: An fMRI Study

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          Abstract

          In a previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, where we investigated the neural correlates of esthetic experience, we found that observing canonical sculptures, relative to sculptures whose proportions had been modified, produced the activation of a network that included the lateral occipital gyrus, precuneus, prefrontal areas, and, most interestingly, the right anterior insula. We interpreted this latter activation as the neural signature underpinning hedonic response during esthetic experience. With the aim of exploring whether this specific hedonic response is also present during the observation of non-art biological stimuli, in the present fMRI study we compared the activations associated with viewing masterpieces of classical sculpture with those produced by the observation of pictures of young athletes. The two stimulus-categories were matched on various factors, including body postures, proportion, and expressed dynamism. The stimuli were presented in two conditions: observation and esthetic judgment. The two stimulus-categories produced a rather similar global activation pattern. Direct comparisons between sculpture and real-body images revealed, however, relevant differences, among which the activation of right antero-dorsal insula during sculptures viewing only. Along with our previous data, this finding suggests that the hedonic state associated with activation of right dorsal anterior insula underpins esthetic experience for artworks.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Converging evidence indicates that primates have a distinct cortical image of homeostatic afferent activity that reflects all aspects of the physiological condition of all tissues of the body. This interoceptive system, associated with autonomic motor control, is distinct from the exteroceptive system (cutaneous mechanoreception and proprioception) that guides somatic motor activity. The primary interoceptive representation in the dorsal posterior insula engenders distinct highly resolved feelings from the body that include pain, temperature, itch, sensual touch, muscular and visceral sensations, vasomotor activity, hunger, thirst, and 'air hunger'. In humans, a meta-representation of the primary interoceptive activity is engendered in the right anterior insula, which seems to provide the basis for the subjective image of the material self as a feeling (sentient) entity, that is, emotional awareness.
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            Subcortical and cortical brain activity during the feeling of self-generated emotions.

            In a series of [15O]PET experiments aimed at investigating the neural basis of emotion and feeling, 41 normal subjects recalled and re-experienced personal life episodes marked by sadness, happiness, anger or fear. We tested the hypothesis that the process of feeling emotions requires the participation of brain regions, such as the somatosensory cortices and the upper brainstem nuclei, that are involved in the mapping and/or regulation of internal organism states. Such areas were indeed engaged, underscoring the close relationship between emotion and homeostasis. The findings also lend support to the idea that the subjective process of feeling emotions is partly grounded in dynamic neural maps, which represent several aspects of the organism's continuously changing internal state.
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              Circuitry and functional aspects of the insular lobe in primates including humans.

              The progress made in understanding the insula in the decade following an earlier review (Augustine, Neurol. Res., 7 (1985) 2-10) is examined in this review. In these ten years, connections have been described between the insula and the orbital cortex, frontal operculum, lateral premotor cortex, ventral granular cortex, and medial area 6 in the frontal lobe. Insular connections between the second somatosensory area and retroinsular area of the parietal lobe have been documented. The insula was found to connect with the temporal pole and the superior temporal sulcus of the temporal lobe. It has an abundance of local intrainsular connections and projections to subdivisions of the cingulate gyrus. The insula has connections with the lateral, lateral basal, central, cortical and medial amygdaloid nuclei. It also connects with nonamygdaloid areas such as the perirhinal cortex, entorhinal, and periamygdaloid cortex. The thalamic taste area, the parvicellular part of the ventral posteromedial nucleus, projects fibers to the ipsilateral insular-opercular cortex. In the past decade, confirmation has been given to the insula as a visceral sensory area, visceral motor area, motor association area, vestibular area, and language area. Recent studies have expanded the role of the insula as a somatosensory area, emphasizing its multifaceted, sensory role. The idea of the insula as limbic integration cortex has been affirmed and its role in Alzheimer's disease suggested.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front. Hum. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
                Frontiers Research Foundation
                1662-5161
                18 November 2011
                2011
                : 5
                Affiliations
                1Department of Neuroscience, Università degli Studi di Parma Parma, Italy
                2Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and CERMAC, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University Milan, Italy
                3Brain Center for Social and Motor Cognition, Italian Institute of Technology Parma, Italy
                Author notes

                Edited by: Idan Segev, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

                Reviewed by: Bernd Weber, Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität, Germany; Philip D. Zelazo, University of Minnesota, USA; Son Preminger, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel

                *Correspondence: Giacomo Rizzolatti, Department of Neuroscience, Università degli Studi di Parma, Via Volturno 39/E, 43100 Parma, Italy. e-mail: giacomo.rizzolatti@ 123456unipr.it
                Article
                10.3389/fnhum.2011.00139
                3220187
                22121344
                Copyright © 2011 Di Dio, Canessa, Cappa and Rizzolatti.

                This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 41, Pages: 14, Words: 9888
                Categories
                Neuroscience
                Original Research

                Neurosciences

                neuroesthetics, sculpture, insula, human body

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