• Gender differences in the neural underpinning of perceiving and appreciating the beauty of the body

      Cazzato, Valentina; Mele, S.; Urgesi, C. (2014-05-01)
      Although previous studies have suggested a certain degree of right hemisphere dominance for the response of extrastriate body area (EBA) during body perception, recent evidence suggests that this functional lateralization may differ between men and women. It is unknown, however, whether and how gender differences in body perception affect appreciating the beauty of the body of conspecifics. Here, we applied five 10-Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) pulses over left and right EBA and over the vertex to investigate the contribution of visual body representations in the two hemispheres on esthetic body perception. Female and male healthy volunteers were requested to judge how much they liked opposite- and same-gender virtual model bodies or to judge their weight, thus allowing us to compare the effects of right- and left-EBA rTMS on esthetic (liking) and perceptual (weight) judgments of human bodies. The analysis of the esthetic judgments provided by women revealed that right-EBA rTMS increased the liking judgments of opposite- but not same-gender models, as compared to both vertex and left EBA stimulation. Conversely, in men the liking judgments of opposite-gender models decreased after virtual disruption of both right and left EBA as compared to vertex stimulation. Crucially, no significant effect was found for the perceptual task, showing that left- and right-EBA rTMS did not affect weight perception. Our results provide evidence of gender difference in the hemispheric asymmetry of EBA in the esthetic processing of human bodies, with women showing stronger right hemisphere dominance in comparison with men.