How we understand our body image involves several brain regions that control vision, self-esteem, and perception. These regions are in the cortex, which is the outer rim of the brain that contains the nerve cell bodies.
One of these areas — called the temporoparietal junction — is located just above and behind the temples, where the temporal region of the brain meets the parietal region. This part of the brain integrates sensory information regarding our bodies.
Studies of patients who have suffered strokes in specific brain regions have provided doctors and scientists with information about which brain areas influence body image.
Stroke victims who have suffered damage to the frontal and parietal regions can develop distorted body perception to the extent that they may deny or disown parts of their bodies.
Such extreme cases involve large strokes that also impact the brain’s underlying white matter, which contains the long wiring that connects brain cells.
Visual aesthetics — the ability to attribute degrees of beauty to forms, colors, or movements — is considered a singularly human trait.
Researchers have studied this trait using functional MRIs and other brain scanning tools.
These experiments show that the brain’s frontal lobe is activated when a person observes something that is beautiful.
Furthermore, functional MRI studies show that facial perception involves a network of brain regions including the thinking brain (frontal cortex), the visual cortex (located in the back of the brain), and the amygdala, a region deep beneath the temples that controls emotional reactions.
These brain regions are influenced by many factors. Women, in particular, are focused on pursuing beauty; nearly 90 percent of patients who opt for plastic surgery are female.
In addition, a person’s mood, personality traits, relationships, and cultural context all influence their self-perception. For instance, in Japan, small feet are considered attractive, while some tribes in Southeast Asia admire long necks.
In Western culture, the ideal of beauty is represented by a thin female figure. On the other hand, some African nations appreciate women with heavier bodies.
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