Evolutionary And Neural Network Mechanisms Of Visual Art Engagement

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Hallie Wolfe (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
Mark Zrull

Abstract: Engagement with the visual arts is a universal part of the human experience. By exploring the evolutionary advantages for artistic processes as well as the neural network interactions involved, this review illuminates why humans engage with the visual arts and how our brains allow us to do so. Coming up with creative ideas, tangibly executing them, and aesthetically evaluating artwork all require diverse modes of neurocognitive processing that interact in dynamic ways. As the modern human brain evolved and being able to make and evaluate visual artwork became advantageous to group cohesion and sexual selection, the development of large-scale neural networks facilitated artistic processes. Interactions between functionally diverse networks allows for integration of visual input, executive focus, association formation, salience discernment, emotional valence processing, and reward perception required for artistic processes. The central executive network computes behavior for the attainment of complex cognitive goals that require externally directed attention and inhibition of irrelevant stimuli. The default mode network is conversely activated by internally directed attention on self-referential, social, and intuitive information, spontaneously creating associations that guide artistic conceptualization and insight. While these two networks are functionally oppositional, both executive and spontaneous styles of processing are used within visual art processes; the salience network dynamically regulates activation of the central executive and default mode networks. The salience network additionally processes visual saliency and emotional valence and is interconnected with the dopaminergic reward system, which processes the hedonic value of engaging with art. Unique interactions between these brain networks facilitate visual art engagement, which is ingrained within human cultures for its valuable ability to promote social connection.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Wolfe, H. (2022). Evolutionary And Neural Network Mechanisms Of Visual Art Engagement. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2022
neuroscience, art, evolution

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