Mild ‘Shock’ to the Brain Lets People See Others as More Attractive

Do you find yourself surrounded by uggos on a near-constant basis? Do you ever despair that the world is just crawling with ugly goblin-people whom you can’t bear to look at without retching? It’s okay — Karl Lagerfeld probably feels the exact same way, which is why he’s never seen without his ugly-dimming sunglasses. Researchers at Caltech, however, may have discovered a solution to your ugly vision that’s more reliable than wearing sunglasses every time you appear in public: a mild electric shock delivered to your midbrain.

According to a report for NBC News, the study, published recently in the journal Translational Psychiatry, sought to examine the influence of the midbrain (believed to be the spot where the brain makes all of its sweet, delicious dopamine) on mood and behavior. Specifically, the study’s lead author Vikram Chib wanted to find a way to manipulate the brain noninvasively, influencing the midbrain without influencing the rest of the body.


Chib and his colleague Shinsuke Shimojo found that people who received a very mild electrical shock (try to dispel all images of writhing electroshock patients in mid-century sanitariums from your imagination) ranked other people’s faces as more attractive than they did prior to the shock, which has implications that go far beyond improving the Lagerfeld Method for Eliminating Aesthetic Imperfection, since rating the attractiveness of faces is a key diagnostic tool for uncovering neurological ailments such as depression, schizophrenia, or Parkinson’s.

Chib and Shimojo used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brains of 99 participants as they received 15 minutes of electrical stimulation. They observed increased activity in the prefontal area and midbrain, as well as a boost of dopamine, which has been shown to help people view others as more attractive.

[NBC News]

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