J Korean Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry.  2018 Jul;29(3):101-113. 10.5765/jkacap.170031.

Autism and Beauty: Neural Correlates of Aesthetic Experiences in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Chungbuk National University Hospital, Cheongju, Korea.
  • 2Department of Neuropsychiatry, College of Medicine, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, Korea. mammosss@hanmail.net
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Bugok National Hospital, Changnyeong, Korea.
  • 4Department of Psychology, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, Korea.
  • 5Didim Psychiatric Clinic, Seoul, Korea.
  • 6SeoulTop Child Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic, Seoul, Korea.
  • 7MindDoctor's Clinic for Junior, Seoul, Korea.
  • 8Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 9Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seongnam, Korea.


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the neural activity of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) patients is different from that of normal individuals when performing aesthetic judgments.
We recruited typical ASD patients without savant skills (ASD group, n=17) and healthy controls (HC group, n=19) for an functional magnetic resonance imaging study. All subjects were scanned while performing aesthetic judgment tasks on two kinds of artwork (magnificent landscape images and fractal images). Differences in brain activation between the two groups were assessed by contrasting neural activity during the tasks.
The aesthetic judgment score for all images was significantly lower in the ASD group than in the HC group. During the aesthetic judgment tasks, the ASD group showed less activation than the HC group in the anterior region of the superior frontal gyrus, and more activation in the temporoparietal area and insula, regardless of the type of images being judged. In addition, during the aesthetic judgment task for the fractal images, the ASD group exhibited greater neural activity in the amygdala and the posterior region of the middle/inferior temporal gyrus (Brodmann area 37) than the HC group.
The results of this study suggest that the brain activation patterns associated with aesthetic experiences in ASD patients may differ from those of normal individuals.


Autism spectrum disorder; Beauty; Aesthetic experience; Neuroaesthetics; Brain; Functional magnetic resonance imaging
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