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article imageStudy finds nudity gives the brain a tune-up

By Kathleen Blanchard     Nov 17, 2011 in Science
Researchers say viewing a nude body tunes the brain. In a new study, scientists found it takes less than 0.2 seconds for the brain to process pictures of nude or scantily clad human bodies. Visual perception of nudity happens quickly and efficiently.
The finding comes from researchers at the University of Tampere and the Aalto University, Finland, who explain until now it was unknown whether the brain processes nude and clothed bodies differently.
The study is significant in the context of mating and reproduction.
The authors write “...visual processing of other people's nude bodies is possibly beneficial in identifying potential mating partners and competitors, and for triggering sexual behavior.”
According to the researchers, other humans are one of the most important objects we see in our environment.
Evidence from past studies suggests the human and primate brain contain specialized cells that are activated in response to facial expressions, but no one knew the brain’s response to nudity.
The authors explain “…clothing is a relatively new invention that hides the bodily features relevant for sexual selection and arousal.”
They wanted to know if hiding the human body with clothing blunts necessary sexual signals.
The study found the brain processes nudity efficiently.
To find out how nudity boosts the brain, the scientists showed study participants images of men and women, clothed, scantily clothed and nude.
MRI imaging was used to map the brain’s response. The results showed the brain processed nude bodies are more quickly and efficiently than partially clothed bodies. The lowest brain response was seen when the participants viewed people wearing clothing.
For this study, men’s brains responded more strongly to nude female images. Women’s brains responded equally to male and female nudity.
The study shows the nudity tunes the brain, explaining why looking at classic nude art and certain advertisements is appealing. The study results are published in the journal PLoS ONE.
More about Nudity, Brain, University of Tampere, Aalto Universit
 
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