Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Nikolaus Bezruczko, Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago, IL
Aptitudes are generally considered to represent “talents for doing or learning to do certain things,” and an explicit goal in this research was to identify brain regions associated with scores on two scales of artistic-judgment aptitude, AJ 1 and AJ 2. The AJ 1 scale assesses preference for lower complexity in randomly-constructed designs, while AJ 2 assesses preference for lower redundancy in randomly-constructed designs. Prior psychometric validation studies, which included cross-sectional, cross-cultural, and professional artist samples, suggested that both scales measure enduring qualities that are linked to artistic success. Structural MRI results reported here were also compared with previous neuroaesthetic studies. Study participants were 21 males and 19 females between 18 and 35 years of age from the New York office of the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation’s aptitude-testing program. All participants were screened for medical and psychiatric illnesses including history of head injury and substance abuse. None of the participants were artistically trained or presented exceptional visual arts background. Participants received sMRI brain scanning at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and regional brain densities were correlated with AJ 1 and AJ 2 scores with voxel-based morphometry (VBM). VBM results showed increased gray matter associated with AJ 1 for 21 brain regions across the various brain lobes with greater concentrations in the parietal lobe. For AJ 1, there was modest support for asymmetrical tissue consolidation lateralized to the right hemisphere, while for AJ 2, the pattern was significant but less prominent. In general, (a) approximately 70 percent of significant AJ 1 correlations occurred in the parietal lobe (inferior and superior) including the left precuneus, (b) the majority of the AJ 2 correlations occurred in the frontal lobe, including the left and right precuneus, (c) brain stem gray matter correlations occurred in both the medulla and midbrain, and (d) AJ 2 showed modest correlations with the insula. In addition, the pattern of correlations for the two scales showed agreement with a meta-analysis of neuroaesthetic studies but with exceptions. It should be noted that prior neuroaesthetic studies used fMRI methods to identify brain areas activated by artistic activity and did not consider individual-difference variables such as artistic judgment. Results support unique brain structures for both the AJ 1 and AJ 2 aptitude factors. AJ 1 seems to be associated with initial image processing instrumental to artistic judgment, while AJ 2 may be related to perceived imagery and affective properties associated with higher-level content processing.