The experience of mathematical beauty and its neural correlates
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Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (2014)

Many have written of the experience of mathematical beauty as being comparable to that derived from the greatest art. This makes it interesting to learn whether the experience of beauty derived from such a highly intellectual and abstract source such as mathematics correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain as that derived from more sensory, perceptually based, sources. To determine this, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the activity in the brains of 15 mathematicians when they viewed mathematical formulae which they had individually rated as beautiful, indifferent or ugly. Results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates parametrically with activity in the same part of the emotional brain, namely field A1 of the medial orbito-frontal cortex (mOFC), as the experience of beauty derived from other sources.
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