Neuroaesthetics, a relatively young field of research, seeks to understand the neural bases of the aesthetic experience. Neuroimaging studies have revealed that at least three functionally distinctive domains are involved in perception of subjective beauty: the affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor systems. The affective system consists of cortical (e.g., orbitofrontal cortex) and subcortical (e.g., ventral striatum) areas implicated in the reward circuit and influence aesthetic emotion, whereas the cognitive system (e.g., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) integrates information needed for aesthetic evaluation in a top-down manner. Some research reports that the sensorimotor areas are also activated by visual objects (e.g., art, and face or body images) evaluated as beautiful. More recently, neuroaesthetic studies using brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation, have demonstrated that neural activity related to aesthetic evaluation has a causal role in the subjective experience of beauty. Accumulating evidence in neuroaesthetics indicates that the aesthetic experience arises from the interaction between the reward processing, decision-making, and sensorimotor neural systems.
Psychological and neuroimaging studies have revealed a close relation between adaptive behaviors and psychiatric disorders as well as functional responses to exposed emotional events. Nevertheless, relation between a trait of harm avoidance and neural reactions to ‘uncertain’ events is not well studied. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine whether the trait of harm avoidance, as measured by Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), relates to functional activations in anticipation of ‘uncertain’ emotional events compared to when upcoming emotional event was ‘certain’. Healthy young adult participants (N=17) were exposed to emotional, valence-inducing images preceded by ‘certain’ or ‘uncertain’ auditory cues. Compared with emotional ‘certain’ conditions, harm avoidance score was positively correlated with brain activation in the bilateral insula and the mid-cingulate cortex while no correlations were found for decreased activation. Individuals with high harm avoidance showed excessive activations in these regions. Our results may provide an additional evidence for the possible relations among adaptive behavior, excessive neural responses to uncertain events (taken as negative), and vulnerability to depression and/or anxiety.
The value of an item is learned through the decision-making sequence. The learning process has been investigated separately in the contexts of internally guided decision-making (IDM, e.g., preference judgment) and externally guided decision-making (EDM, e.g., gambling task). Regarding EDM, learning processes of item values have been explained by reinforcement learning theory. The amplitude of feedback-related negativity (FRN) is known to reflect prediction error, which modulates the degree of value updating. Recently, as with the EDM, the reinforcement learning-like mechanism is thought to explain value updating in IDM (choice-induced preference change: CIPC). This study used the blind choice paradigm to investigate whether the FRN is associated with CIPC, or not. In this paradigm, participants blindly choose the more preferred one form the two equally preferred items, and then feedback indicating the chosen item. Results showed that the FRN-like component was observed but not related to CIPC. These results suggest that the FRN-like component does not reflect the degree of value updating but reflects a participant's estimation about how much their preference is reflected in the feedback.
The present study examined whether or not the elevation of cortisol elicited in response to an acute psychosocial stress relates to a difficulty in disengaging attention from threat stimuli. For this purpose, we measured attentional bias for angry faces using a spatial cueing task in which the duration of the cue presentation was relatively long (1,000 ms). The participants engaged in the acute psychosocial stress task, and then the spatial cueing task. We divided the participants into cortisol responders and non-responders based on the elevation of salivary cortisol elicited in response to the acute psychosocial stress task. The results showed that cortisol responders had a difficulty in disengaging attention from angry faces, whereas non-responders rapidly disengaged attention from angry faces. These results suggest that the elevation of cortisol elicited in response to the acute psychosocial stress is associated with a difficulty in disengaging attention from threat stimuli.