Modulation of neural activity during guided viewing of visual art

Guillermo Herrera-Arcos, Jesús Tamez-Duque, Elsa Y. Acosta-De-Anda, Kevin Kwan-Loo, Mayra de-Alba, Ulises Tamez-Duque, Jose L. Contreras-Vidal, Rogelio Soto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Mobile Brain-Body Imaging (MoBI) technology was deployed to record multi-modal data from 209 participants to examine the brain’s response to artistic stimuli at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MARCO) in Monterrey, México. EEG signals were recorded as the subjects walked through the exhibit in guided groups of 6-8 people. Moreover, guided groups were either provided with an explanation of each art piece (Guided-E), or given no explanation (Guided-NE). The study was performed using portable Muse (InteraXon, Inc, Toronto, ON, Canada) headbands with four dry electrodes located at AF7, AF8, TP9, and TP10. Each participant performed a baseline (BL) control condition devoid of artistic stimuli and selected his/her favorite piece of art (FP) during the guided tour. In this study, we report data related to participants’ demographic information and aesthetic preference as well as effects of art viewing on neural activity (EEG) in a select subgroup of 18-30 year-old subjects (Nc D 25) that generated high-quality EEG signals, on both BL and FP conditions. Dependencies on gender, sensor placement, and presence or absence of art explanation were also analyzed. After denoising, clustering of spectral EEG models was used to identify neural patterns associated with BL and FP conditions. Results indicate statistically significant suppression of beta band frequencies (15-25 Hz) in the prefrontal electrodes (AF7 and AF8) during appreciation of subjects’ favorite painting, compared to the BL condition, which was significantly different from EEG responses to non-favorite paintings (NFP). No significant differences in brain activity in relation to the presence or absence of explanation during exhibit tours were found. Moreover, a frontal to posterior asymmetry in neural activity was observed, for both BL and FP conditions. These findings provide new information about frequency-related effects of preferred art viewing in brain activity, and support the view that art appreciation is independent of the artists’ intent or original interpretation and related to the individual message that viewers themselves provide to each piece.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number581
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Nov 30 2017


  • Aesthetics
  • Art
  • BCI
  • Beta band
  • EEG
  • MoBI
  • Neuroaesthetics
  • Non-laboratory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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