And yet my ex-boyfriend hated it when I used to call him "my little Piss Christ." I was just being romantic, as now confirmed by a new study from University College London in which a group of people with no background in art were shown images of works by artists such as da Vinci, Ingres, and Monet. When researchers measured the flow of blood to certain parts of their brain, they found that looking at great art has quite an effect:
What we found is when you look at art – whether it is a landscape, a still life, an abstract or a portrait – there is strong activity in that part of the brain related to pleasure…
The reaction was immediate. What we found was the increase in blood flow was in proportion to how much the painting was liked.
The blood flow increased for a beautiful painting just as it increases when you look at somebody you love.
In fact, blood flow increased up to ten percent, which is no small potatoes. (I mean, I assume. That nice scientist man told me so through this shiny box in front of me. I studied English!) And before you question my above use of "Piss Christ," the study found that all art — even things group members considered "uglier," like the work of Hieronymus Bosch — still increased blood flow to the medial orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain in question. Just not as much. So maybe I should only use "my little Piss Christ" when I'm happy to see my significant other but still a little peeved that he hogged all the pillows again.