How Electricity Could Improve Your Appreciation Of Art
Test subjects were asked to rate paintings before and after receiving a mild amount of current in a portion of their brain. Paintings that depicted realistic scenes earned higher ratings after the zap.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
University of Milan Bicoccia scientist Zaira Cattaneo and her team asked 12 test subjects to view and rate paintings done in different styles. They then used transcranial direct current stimulation on some of the subjects to deliver a small amount of electric current to a portion of the brain involved in emotion processing. On the other subjects, they performed a similar treatment that used no current. When asked to view and rate the paintings again, those who received the current rated certain paintings -- those depicting real-world scenes -- more highly than before. Their ratings didn't change for abstract works.
What's the Big Idea?
It's hard to say exactly what motivates an individual's appreciation for certain types of art, but scientists working in the relatively young field of neuroaesthetics hope to provide some clarification in the future. Commenting on Cattaneo's study -- which was published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience -- University of Pennsylvania neurologist Anjan Chatterjee says, "The effect of stimulation was subtle, but still pretty remarkable considering the participants were basically just putting a battery on their head."
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