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Being told painting is fake changes our brains' response to it


December 7, 2011 - London

The way we perceive art is not 'rational' when it comes to judging between the fake and real thing, mainly because of a variety of influences and changes in brain pattern, a new study has suggested.

According to the researchers, there are more than one areas of the brain involved with judgements about art.

The study comprised 14 participants who underwent brain scans as they looked at pictures of Rembrandt portraits.

The 7th century Dutch painter was selected for the study, as there are numerous convincing copies of his work, which have come under scrutiny in recent years.

The examination of the brain signals revealed that there was no apparent way the test subjects could differentiate between fake or the real painting.

But when the researchers looked at the areas of the brain, which were being stimulated, they observed very different things.

Even if the person in question was looking at the real thing, their brain patterns altered if they thought they were looking at a fake.

The research, conducted by Oxford University in the UK, involved the use of Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the Brain, or FMRIB.

Different areas of the brain 'light up' under an MRI scan depending on whether the participants consider a painting to be real or fake.

"Our study shows that the way we view art is not rational, that even when we cannot distinguish between two works, the knowledge that one was painted by a renowned artist makes us respond to it very differently," the Daily Mail quoted Professor Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University as saying.

"Our findings support the idea that when we make aesthetic judgements, we are subject to a variety of influences," Andrew Parker, the study's senior author, said.

"Not all of these are immediately articulated. Indeed, some may be inaccessible to direct introspection but their presence might be revealed by brain imaging."

Parker asserted that complex judgement involves different areas of the brain interacting together.

"It suggests that different regions of the brain interact together when a complex judgment is formed, rather than there being a single area of the brain that deals with aesthetic judgements."

"Our findings support what art historians, critics and the general public have long believed - that it is always better to think we are seeing the genuine article," Professor Kemp said.The fact that people travel to galleries around the world to see an original painting suggests that this conclusion is reasonable," he added.

The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

ANI

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