Several affective and cognitive processes have been found to be pivotal in affecting aesthetic experience of artworks and both neuropsychological as well as psychiatric symptoms have been found to affect artistic production. However, there is a paucity of studies directly investigating effects of brain lesions on aesthetic judgment. Here, we assessed the effects of unilateral brain damage on aesthetic judgment of artworks showing part/whole ambiguity. We asked 19 unilaterally brain-damaged patients (10 left and 9 right brain damaged patients, respectively LBDP and RBDP) and 20 age- and education-matched healthy individuals (controls, C) to rate 10 Arcimboldo’s ambiguous portraits (AP), 10 realistic Renaissance portraits (RP), 10 still life paintings (SL), and 10 Arcimboldo’s modified portraits where only objects/parts are detectable (AO). They were also administered a Navon task, a facial recognition test, and evaluated on visuo-perceptual and visuo-constructional abilities. Patients included in the study did not show any deficits that could affect the capability to explore and enjoy artworks. SL and RP was not affected by brain damage regardless of its laterality. On the other hand, we found that RBDP liked AP more than the C participants. Furthermore, we found a positive correlation between aesthetic judgment of AP and visuo-perceptual skills even if the single case analyses failed to find a systematic association between neuropsychological deficits and aesthetic judgment of AP. On the whole, the present data suggest that a right hemisphere lesion may affect aesthetic judgment of ambiguous artworks, even in the absence of exploration or constructional deficits.
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