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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 1, 2019

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Your Brain on Art: Neuroscientists Define the Aesthetic Experience

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Imagine you are looking at Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting for the first time. What do you experience? Perhaps the first thing you notice is the large amount of blue. Then you might zoom in on details to notice the stars and the rings of paint around them, and then details of the village below, while still examining the blue sky. As you explore the painting, your understanding changes, and so do the pleasurable feelings you receive from the experience.

How does the brain create these experiences, and how does it decide if artwork is aesthetically pleasing?

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