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Book Chapter

Imaging the subjective


Vessel,  Edward Allen
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Vessel, E. A., & Starr, G. G. (2022). Imaging the subjective. In A. Chatterjee, & E. Cardilo (Eds.), Brain, beauty, and art: Essays bringing neuroaesthetics into focus (pp. 117-121). New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oso/9780197513620.003.0024.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-15ED-3
Aesthetic experiences can be deeply personal. Given this subjectivity, how can cognitive neuroscience characterize the neural mechanisms supporting intense aesthetic experiences? Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Vessel, Starr, and Rubin measured brain responses as observers viewed a diverse set of artworks and rated how aesthetically “moving” they found each artwork. Although individual observers expressed highly divergent aesthetic tastes, imaging results identified several regions consistently more engaged by moving artworks, including nodes of the default-mode network (DMN), a set of brain regions implicated in internally directed mentation. This work increased interest in the DMN and the role of internally directed thought in aesthetic experiences and helped to shift the focus of inquiry from single regions to network interactions. A result of close interaction between humanists and neuroscientists, the paper under discussion captured more of the richness of aesthetic experiences than was common in neuroimaging experiments. The authors hope that this legacy continues to inform future work.