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Title: The modularity of aesthetic processing and perception in the human brain : functional neuroimaging studies of neuroaesthetics
Author: Kirk, Ulrich
ISNI:       0000 0001 3600 3463
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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By taking advantage of the advent of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) this thesis argues that aesthetics belongs in the domain of neurobiology by investigating the different brain processes that are implicated in aesthetic perception from two perspectives. The first experiment explores a specific artistic style that has stressed the problem in the relationship between objects and context. This study investigates the neural responses associated with changes in visual perception, as when objects are placed in their normal context versus when the object-context relationship is violated. Indeed, an aim of this study was to cast a new light on this specific artistic style from a neuroscientific perspective. In contrast to basic rewards, which relate to the reproduction of the species, the evolution of abstract, cognitive representations facilitates the use of a different class of rewards related to hedonics. The second part investigates the hedonic processes involved in aesthetic judgments in order to explore if such higher order cognitive rewards use the same neural reward mechanism as basic rewards. In the first of these experiments we modulate the extent to which the neural correlates of aesthetic preference vary as a function of expertise in architecture. In the second experiment we aim to measure the more general effects of labelling works of art with cognitive semantic information in order to explore the neural modulation of aesthetic preference relative to this information. The main finding of this thesis is that stimulus affective value is represented separately in OFC, with positive reward (increasing aesthetic judgments) being represented in medial OFC and negative reward value is being represented in lateral OFC. Furthermore ventral striatum encode reward expectancy and the predictive value of a stimulus. These findings suggest a dissociation of reward processing with separate neural substrates in reward expectancy and stimulus affective value.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available