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Face perception is modulated by sexual orientation

thalamus and the orbitofrontal cortex, a region of the brain's reward circuitry. Heterosexual women and homosexual men exhibited a significantly greater response to male faces, whereas heterosexual men and homosexual women responded significantly more to female faces.

The orbitofrontal cortex is known to be involved in representing the reward value of various sensory stimuli, including beautiful faces, as well as the reward value of abstract positive (for example, money) and negative (for example, punishment) entities. What could this mean for interpreting socially relevant information? Past work has shown that patients with lesions in orbitofrontal cortex are impaired in their ability to identify emotional facial expressions, suggesting that this region has an important role in the processing of facial cues required for social communication. In this light, the researchers suggest that the observed modulation by sexual preference of the response to faces within the orbitofrontal cortex extends the role of this brain region in social behavior.

Does the orbitofrontal cortex play a role in evaluating potential reproductive partners? Facial beauty is considered a marker for reproductive fitness. Not surprisingly, recent studies have reported that facial beauty evokes activation in the brain's reward circuitry. It has been suggested that the rewarding, evolutionarily adaptive value of an attractive face can be dissociated from its aesthetic value: for example, an attractive opposite-sex face may signal that a potential sexual partner has a healthy genotype, but an attractive, same-sex face cannot indicate such reproductive benefits. The orbitofrontal cortex could therefore mediate the evolutionary, adaptive value of attractive, opposite-sex faces, thus providing putative neural correlates for the assessment of potential mates for reproductive purposes. However, the researchers in fact did not find neural evidence in support of such dissociation between a
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Source:Cell Press


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