New York TimesPatterns: Beauty, It Turns Out, Lights the Brain
November 13, 2001
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
Given the opportunity, many men will gladly spend time gazing at beautiful women's faces.
Though the news may not come as much of a shock, the researchers who report the finding in a new study say it may still lend some insight into how the brain works.
Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard affiliate, said they wanted to see how the brain responded when heterosexual men were exposed to photographs of women and men of varying degrees of attractiveness. The study appears in the current issue of Neuron and was written by Dr. Hans C. Breiter.
The researchers found, among other things, that the part of the brain that responds to facial beauty is the same area that is activated by food, recreational drugs and money.
One goal of the study was to see if, from the brain's perspective, anyway, the simple act of looking at someone attractive is satisfying in and of itself.
While the findings may hold true for each sex, the researchers said they had studied only men because women's responses to facial stimuli could be affected by their menstrual cycles.
The men were divided into groups and shown a series of photographs portraying attractive women, average women, attractive men and average men.
The men were asked to evaluate the attractiveness of each. While they identified some men's faces as attractive, when they could control their viewing, they lingered over the beautiful women.
Meanwhile, brain scans showed the "reward circuitry" of the brain lighting up as the men looked at the attractive women's pictures, but not those of the men.http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/13/he...cdded00ce1ecdd
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company