Abstract

The current study examined the neural substrates of facial attractiveness judgments. Based on the extant behavioral literature, it was hypothesized that brain regions involved in identifying the potential reward value of a stimulus would be more active when men viewed attractive women than when women viewed attractive men. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment during which participants provided explicit attractiveness judgments for faces of the opposite sex. These individual ratings were subsequently used to perform analyses aimed at identifying the brain regions preferentially responsive to attractive faces for both sex groups. The results revealed that brain regions comprising the putative reward circuitry (e.g., nucleus accumbens [NAcc], orbito-frontal cortex [OFC]) showed a linear increase in activation with increased judgments of attractiveness. However, further analysis also revealed sex differences in the recruitment of OFC, which distinguished attractive and unattractive faces only for male participants.

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