During the past two decades, cognitive neuroscientists have sought to elucidate the common neural basis of the experience of beauty. Still, empirical evidence for such common neural basis of different forms of beauty is not conclusive. To address this question, we performed an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis on the existing neuroimaging studies of beauty appreciation of faces and visual art by nonexpert adults (49 studies, 982 participants, meta-data are available at https://osf.io/s9xds/). We observed that perceiving these two forms of beauty activated distinct brain regions: While the beauty of faces convergently activated the left ventral striatum, the beauty of visual art convergently activated the anterior medial prefrontal cortex (aMPFC). However, a conjunction analysis failed to reveal any common brain regions for the beauty of visual art and faces. The implications of these results are discussed.
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK, ES/K013424/1) and by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project 31371017, and 31471001). SBE acknowledges funding by the the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-MH074457) and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 945539 (HBP SGA3). We thank Dr. Steven Brown for helpful comments on the previous versions of this manuscript.