[…] the fact that a given region activates when people are in a particular psychological state (e.g., love) doesn’t give you license to conclude that that state is present just because you see activity in the region in question. If language, working memory, physical pain, anger, visual perception, motor sequencing, and memory retrieval all activate the insula, then knowing that the insula is active is of very little diagnostic value.
Beauty is a particularly potent and intense form of curiosity. It’s a learning signal urging us to keep on paying attention, an emotional reminder that there’s something here worth figuring out. (…)
The beauty keeps us from looking away, tickling those dopaminergic neurons and dorsal hairs. Like curiosity, beauty is a motivational force, an emotional reaction not to the perfect or the complete, but to the imperfect and incomplete. We know just enough to know that we want to know more; there is something here, we just don’t what. That’s why we call it beautiful.
Why some seconds seem to last forever
Though our perception of time can be stunningly precise — given a beat to keep, professional drummers are accurate within milliseconds — it can also be curiously plastic. Some moments seem to last longer than others, and scientists don’t know why.
Unlike our other senses, our perception of time has no defined location in our brain, making it difficult to understand and study. But now researchers have found hints that our sense of time stems from specialized units in our brain, channels of neurons tuned to signals of certain time lengths.
“We know keeping track of time is incredibly important, it allows us to coordinate movements, interpret body language,” said optometrist James Heron of the University of Bradford in the UK, lead author of the study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Aug. 10. “We know the brain does this routinely and accurately, but we’re not sure how. Our evidence strongly suggests the presence of neural units in the brain that are tuned to different durations.”