Neuroesthetics (or neuroaesthetics) is a relatively recent discipline that approaches scientifically to the study of aesthetic perceptions. The field of neuroesthetics was pioneered and named by Semir Zeki, who runs the Institute of Neuroesthetics at University College London.
Already in past centuries writers and philosophers tried to grasp the intimate essence of an aesthetic experience and to define the concept of beauty. Plato, Immanuel Kant, or art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, to name a few, come to mind. Still, these important figures of Western thought never had the opportunity to directly see what happens in our brain when, for example, we are in front of work of art. Today we can do this. Indeed, neuroesthetics uses the techniques of neuroscience in order to explain and understand the esthetic experiences at the neurological level.
For example, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has permitted visualization of brain activity in vivo while we carry out an action, think, or become emotional. Together with other techniques, the fMRI has allowed the study of the pattern of activation of different areas of the brain, revealing that each of the cerebral structures is specialized for one or more specific tasks, like the elaboration of sensorial stimuli (visual, tactile, auditory, etc.), the planning and execution of motor processes, or the perception of determined emotional stimuli.
Yet, despite these developments, scientists are still working hard to reveal the most arcane and untouched secrets that philosophers and scientists have been debating for millennia: the mysteries of the human mind.