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Ilkay Isik, Edward A Vessel; Tracking aesthetic engagement: Behavioral and brain responses to artistic landscape videos. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):96c. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.96c.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Aesthetic experiences unfold in time, yet most of what is known about the psychological and neural basis of such experiences comes from studies with static images (paintings, photography, landscape). Previous imaging studies with artworks suggest that aesthetically pleasing experiences modulate activity not only in subcortical reward regions (ventral striatum), but also in portions of the ventral visual pathway and the default-mode network (DMN). We investigated behavioral and neural responses to temporally extended, aesthetically engaging stimuli (videos), using fMRI in combination with continuous behavioral ratings. Participants (n=26) were scanned as they viewed 40 video clips of landscapes (30 s) and indicated their moment-to-moment liking, as well as a final summary rating at the end of each clip. Category-selective visual regions in ventral occipitotemporal cortex (e.g. PPA, OPA, FFA) were identified using a functional localizer scan, and core regions of the DMN were identified using a “rest” scan, in each individual. In a behavioral pretest, we found that overall aesthetic judgments of landscape videos contain a high degree of variance from person-to-person (“mean-minus-one” agreement score MM1=0.44, 95% CI 0.31–0.56) more so than for static landscape images (previously reported MM1=0.60, 95% CI 0.53–0.66). Moment-to-moment ratings, however, were slightly more concordant (MM1=0.52, 95% CI 0.45–0.58). In addition, the degree of temporal variation in continuous ratings over time was more affected by observer than by stimulus. A parametric regression analysis of the fMRI data using overall ratings as regressors revealed sensitivity to aesthetic appreciation in several scene selective regions (parahippocampal place area, retrosplenial cortex and occipital place area) as well as ventral striatum and inferior frontal sulcus, but not in the DMN. These results suggest that aesthetically pleasing landscape videos may modulate a wider network of higher-level visual regions than their static counterparts, and rely less on top-down information for their aesthetic appeal.
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