A Slight Zap to the Brain Makes Everyone Appear More Attractive | Smart News | Smithsonian

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A Slight Zap to the Brain Makes Everyone Appear More Attractive

After getting zapped, participants experienced a boost of dopamine - a chemical associated with how we judge people's attractiveness

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We can all be beautiful in the eye of the beholder—if the beholder’s brain has been electrically shocked. According to a new study, people who received mild electric shocks viewed others as more attractive than before they received that dose of electricity. NBC News reports:

 Chib, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech, wanted to know how an area nestled deep with the brain called the midbrain influenced mood and behavior, and if there were a way to manipulate it noninvasively.

The duo used a brain scanner called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to take photos of the 99 study participants’ brains as they were asked to rank the attractiveness of faces, both before and after undergoing 15 minutes of electrical stimulation. The stimulation was from something called a transcranial direct-current-stimulation (tDCS) — it’s an inexpensive, noninvasive way to stimulate the brain using electrodes placed on the scalp. The tDCS only uses a 9-volt battery, and the jolt isn’t painful — it feels like a little tingle, or an itch.

After participants’ brains were zapped, NBC continues, dopamine—a chemical scientists know is associated with how we judge people’s attractiveness—surged when they viewed photos of others’ faces. In other words, after the shock, their brains were registering the faces in the photos as more attractive than before.

But the purpose of this study is not just find a way to enhance perceptions of pretty faces. Problems like depression, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease have been connected to the area of the brain involved in this study,  and finding out new ways to tinker with it may lend insight into treating those disorders.

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