Classical paintings may trigger pain and pleasure in the gendered brain

Beatrice de Gelder*, Rebecca Watson, Minye Zhan, Matteo Diano, Marco Tamietto, Maarten J. Vaessen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

The human body is the most common object of pictorial representation in western art and its representations trigger a vast range of experiences from pain to pleasure. The goal of this study was to investigate brain activity triggered by paintings of male and female body images exemplifying conditions associated with pleasure or pain. Our findings show participant-general as well as gender specific brain activity for either the pain or the pleasure conditions. Although our participants were fully aware that they were viewing artworks, the inferior parietal lobule - known for its role in the perception of emotional body images - and the somatosensory cortex related to touch were selectively active for female body paintings in all participants in the pleasure conditions. As regards gender we observed that the sight of female bodies activated the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in males, an area known to subserve autonomic arousal. In contrast, in females the sight of the male body activated reward and control related parts of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This study supports the notion that some basic evolutionary processes operate when we view body images, also when they are cultural heritage paintings far removed from daily experience. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-180
JournalCortex
Volume109
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Perception
  • Art
  • Body
  • Aesthetics
  • fMRI
  • Gender
  • ANTERIOR CINGULATE CORTEX
  • NEURAL MECHANISMS
  • COGNITIVE CONTROL
  • CONFLICT
  • EMOTION
  • TOUCH
  • NEUROBIOLOGY
  • PERSPECTIVES
  • EMPATHY

Cite this

de Gelder, B., Watson, R., Zhan, M., Diano, M., Tamietto, M., & Vaessen, M. J. (2018). Classical paintings may trigger pain and pleasure in the gendered brain. Cortex, 109, 171-180. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2018.09.011
de Gelder, Beatrice ; Watson, Rebecca ; Zhan, Minye ; Diano, Matteo ; Tamietto, Marco ; Vaessen, Maarten J. / Classical paintings may trigger pain and pleasure in the gendered brain. In: Cortex. 2018 ; Vol. 109. pp. 171-180.
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de Gelder, B, Watson, R, Zhan, M, Diano, M, Tamietto, M & Vaessen, MJ 2018, 'Classical paintings may trigger pain and pleasure in the gendered brain', Cortex, vol. 109, pp. 171-180. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2018.09.011

Classical paintings may trigger pain and pleasure in the gendered brain. / de Gelder, Beatrice; Watson, Rebecca; Zhan, Minye; Diano, Matteo; Tamietto, Marco; Vaessen, Maarten J.

In: Cortex, Vol. 109, 2018, p. 171-180.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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