|Freud ca. 1900, from Wikimedia commons|
Beauty does not occupy a different area of the brain than ugliness. Both are part of a continuum representing the values the brain attributes to them, and both are encoded by relative changes in activity in the same areas of the brain. This is consistent with the idea that positive and negative emotions lie on a continuum and call on the same neural circuitry. Thus, the amygdala, commonly associated with fear, is also a regulator of happiness.
For every evaluation of emotion, from happiness to misery, we use the same fundamental neural circuitry. In the case of art, we evaluate a portrait’s potential for providing new insights into another person’s psychological state. This discovery, by Ray Dolan and his colleagues at University College London, was based on a set of studies in which volunteers viewed faces whose expression of sadness, fear, disgust, or happiness was gradually changed from low to high intensity.