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The Rationale for a Redefinition of Visual Art Based on Neuroaesthetic Principles
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STATEMENTS THE RATIONALE FOR A REDEFINITION OF VISUAL ART BASED ON NEUROAESTHETIC PRINCIPLES Eugen Bogdan Petcu, Griffith University School of Medicine Gold Coast Campus, Griffith University, QLD 4222, Australia. Email: . See for supplemental files associated with this issue. Submitted: 8 June 2017 Abstract Recent investigational studies have indicated that fronto-orbital, temporal and parietal lobes have a decisive role in artistic creation and personal identification of “beauty” in painting. Moreover, visual artistic work and preferences could be modified by central nervous system diseases or external stimuli such as transcranial magnetic stimulation. Both creation and preferences would depend on prior art education and sociocultural norms. However, the superior activity of the brain remains of paramount importance in production and evaluation of paintings regardless of the style, representational or abstract. Therefore , redefinition of art by neuroaesthetic principles will create a better communication between the public and the artists. Visual artistic creation and its aesthetic evaluation are intrinsically linked to human evolution and socio-cultural context. In fact, visual art represents a superior form of human communication solely dependent on the central nervous system’s (CNS) integrated activity. There are a multitude of various styles or representations and people have different preferences in terms of classical or abstract productions. An artist’s style changes over time or after diseases affecting the CNS processing and integration. Therefore, the development of a new artistic style or a change in preference for a specific type of art seen in nonartists represents an “evolution” within a different pattern of communication determined by a new level of CNS activation. In this setting, neuroaesthetics represents a new field at the interface between art and medical sciences that aims to explain the neural mechanisms of artistic creation and aesthetic appreciation . Neuroaesthetics relies on new investigational methods for evaluation of central nervous system functionality, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electroencephalography (EEG) [1][2]. Neuroaesthetic studies have been dramatically improved by quantitative methods such as the implementation of the Chatterjee’s Assessment of Art Attributes, which is based on the evaluation on a 5-point Likert scale of several conceptual and formal attributes of 24 masterpieces of the Western art historical canon, signed by various artists from Holbein and Van Eyck to Picasso, Rothko, De Kooning and Dalí. Conceptual art attributes evaluated by this method include accuracy, abstraction-realism, emotions and symbolism, while the formal characteristics evaluated are represented by color saturation and temperature, stroke, depth, balance and complexity [3]. Most of the studies investigating the neurobiology of artistic creation and evaluation have indicated that both may be modulated by centers located in the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes. We can consider as the “classical” benchmark the MRI study conducted by Kawabata and Zeki in healthy volunteers, which indicated that the orbito-frontal area of the brain is activated differently when evaluating copies of paintings encompassing various themes: portraits, landscapes and modern representations [4]. For the first time ever, the authors of this study separate the paintings into “beautiful,” “ugly” and “neutral” based on the activity recorded in the orbito -frontal CNS region, which is in fact a specialized area related to pleasure and reward mechanisms [5]. Remarkably, evaluation of abstract modern art, which often is considered hermetical, also determines CNS changes identified by EEG as Mu rhythm abolition. This is interesting as the Mu rhythm represents a normal pattern of an EEG. While the exact significance of this is not fully understood, it indicates that “enjoyment ” of modern abstract art implies electric visual processing substantiated by EEG changes [6]. Other clinical studies have revealed that aesthetic evaluation is associated not only with activation of fronto-medial cortex but also that it may depend on cognitive processes related to various social norms implying a complex neural cognitive network association [7,8]. From the anatomo-morphological perspective, some authors have proved that classification into “beauty” and “ugly” visual artworks requires other CNS regions such as left temporal and temporo-parietal regions. The personal “labeling” of “beauty” requires also the activation of the left intraparietal sulcus, which is involved in symmetry appreciation, and the amygdala, a specific area within the temporal lobe that controls emotions and memory processing [9,10]. However, other...