Maths hits same sweet spot in brain as do music and art: Study
People who appreciate the beauty of mathematics activate the same part of their brain when they look at aesthetically pleasing formula as others do when appreciating art or music, a new research has suggested.
In a new paper, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the brain activity of 15 mathematicians when they viewed mathematical formulae that they had previously rated as beautiful, neutral or ugly.
The results showed that the experience of mathematical beauty correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain - namely the medial orbito-frontal cortex - as the experience of beauty derived from art or music.
Lead author Professor Semir Zeki, from the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at UCL, said that to many of them mathematical formulae appear dry and inaccessible but to a mathematician an equation can embody the quintescence of beauty.
In the study, each subject was given 60 mathematical formulae to review at leisure and rate on a scale of -5 (ugly) to +5 (beautiful) according to how beautiful they experienced them to be. Two weeks later they were asked to re-rate them while in an fMRI scanner.
The formulae most consistently rated as beautiful (both before and during the scans) were Leonhard Euler's identity, the Pythagorean identity and the Cauchy-Riemann equations. Leonhard Euler's identity links five fundamental mathematical constants with three basic arithmetic operations each occurring once and the beauty of this equation has been likened to that of the soliloquy in Hamlet.
The paper has been published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
(Posted on 13-02-2014)
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