Beauty and Ugliness in the Bodies and Faces of Others: An Fmri Study of Person Esthetic Judgement

M. Martin-Loeches*, J. A. Hernandez-Tamames, A. Martin, M. Urrutia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Whether beauty and ugliness represent two independent judgement categories or, instead, opposite extremes of a single dimension is a matter of debate. In the present 3T-functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study, 20 participants were scanned while judging faces and nude bodies of people classified as extremely ugly, extremely beautiful, or indifferent. Certain areas, such as the caudate/nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), exhibited a linear relationship across esthetic judgments supporting ugliness as the lowest extreme of a beauty continuum. Other regions, such as basal occipital areas, displayed an inverse pattern, with the highest activations for ugly and the lowest for beautiful ones. Further, several areas were involved alike by both the very beautiful and the very ugly stimuli. Among these, the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC), as well as the posterior and medial portions of the cingulate gyrus. This is interpreted as the activation of neural circuits related to selfvs. other-assessment. Beauty and ugliness in the brain, at least in relation to natural and biologically and socially relevant stimuli (faces and bodies), appear tightly related and non-independent. Finally, neutral stimuli elicited strong and wide activations of the somatosensory and somatomotor systems together with longer reaction times and higher error rates, probably reflecting the difficulty of the human brain to classify someone as indifferent. (C) 2014 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-497
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant PSI2010-19619 from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO, Spain). M. Urrutia is supported by the Neurocog Project (ACIISI, Canary Islands and ERDF, European Union). The authors wish to thank Eva Manzanedo and Francisco Muñoz for their help in data analyses.


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