mirror, mirror on the wall….


Yesterday, I posted a light hearted post on how looking at attractive people is good for your health and brain. Today, I figured I should look at the opposite – what about looking at an unattractive person.

I am going to discuss a poster that was presented at the annual society of neuroscience in 2007. One problem is that unless you are a member I do not believe you can view these abstracts, and this poster has not been published in paper form yet.

The poster I will discuss was titled: “Unattractive faces and financial losses activate similar brain regions” by D. V. SMITH, B. Y. HAYDEN, J. A. CHEN, T.-K. TRUONG, A. W. SONG, M. L. PLATT, S. A. HUETTEL

The subjects in this experiment were exposed to attractive and unattractive faces, along with monetary gains and losses. Hence, both positive and negative enforcers. What they found was that negative enforcers (unattractive faces and monetary losses) activated similar brain areas, which are known to be involved in ‘aversive, disgusting, or painful stimuli’ that included the insular cortex and the right post-central gyrus.

Makes sense, we feel pain and are disgusted when we suffer financial losses, but is this same true when viewing unattractive faces?

More specifically, when they compared unattractive versus attractive faces the right insular cortex, right frontopolar cortex and the right post-central gyrus was more activated.

What is interesting is among the various function of the insular cortex the most prevalent is that this brain area is very important for ‘feeling’ disgust (more specifically the anterior region of the insula). Yes, disgust.

So without citing another 20 papers that have examined disgust (including moral disgust) and the insula brain region (and additional brain regions), what is interesting or disturbing is that unattractive faces activate this same ‘disgust’ brain region.

Are we really disgusted by unattractive people?

All I know is that if the above is true then I am going to have to do my best to avoid looking in the mirror.

Hope everybody has a good weekend surrounded by the beauty of nature and life.

1 comment for “mirror, mirror on the wall….

  1. CC
    July 8, 2008 at 7:21 am

    The insular cortex can’t be responsible for only one feeling – feeling of disgust, can it?
    How about looking at a rather unattractive face and feeling….e.g. sympathy, happiness from a sense of self-superiority….etc?