Neuroaesthetics research review published in an online journal

Thomas S. McClure ’15, a psychology major, and Assistant Professor Jessica A. Siegel have published a literature review paper with 16 references on the relatively new area of Neuroaesthetics (particularly the visual system, visual reward, and the evolutionary theory of visual perception).  The review paper of theories behind the visual aesthetic processes in the brain and experimental research implicating neural substrates is the culmination of McClure’s Independent Study project under the direction of Dr. Siegel.

While the history of the area dates to the earliest empirical research in psychology (an 1876 publication by Gustav Theodor Fechner), the literature with neurological focus is primarily 21st century.  Affiliated with the University of Leipzig, Fechner is particularly noted for detailing the relative strengths and limitations of the three basic methods of measuring sensory ability in his 1860 Elemente der Psychophysik . . . and thereby establishing experimental psychology;  his methodological evaluation is still considered accurate.

Abstract:  Neuroaesthetics is the study of how aesthetic perception, production, judgment, appreciation, and emotional response are produced and experienced from a neurobiological basis. While this area of study is relatively new to the field of neuroscience, this review will look at proposed theories behind aesthetic processes in the brain and existing experimental research implicating neural substrates behind these theories. The neurobiological basis of perception and interpretation of visual art is discussed. More specifically, we review the visual system and visual reward, and the evolutionary theory of visual perception. Among several findings of this review are examples of artistic manipulation of the two-stream hypothesis of visual processing. Manipulations of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) through transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have been shown to increase aesthetic appreciation. Evolutionary theories rooted in survival are thought to govern the human appreciation for landscape art. While these findings are significant, they are only the beginning for a field with an immeasurable future.

IMPULSE is an international online neuroscience journal for undergraduate publications.  Submissions are reviewed by students worldwide under faculty guidance.  IMPULSE offers undergraduates in neuroscientific disciplines the opportunity to complete the scientific process (writing a report in publication style, peer review, electronic publication in the scientific literature) and – by joining the IMPULSE review team – to learn about the publishing process.

IMPULSE was founded in January 2003 by four sophomores at the University of South Carolina.  It received its ISSN number in the fall of 2006 and was invited to join the Directory of Open Access Journals in the winter of 2007.  It is affiliated with several universities;  the website is currently hosted through the Honors College at Appalachian State University (Boone NC).