While art and artists are an integral and valued part of many cultures, in American culture, art is often devalued. Art programs are cut from school budgets, art is often relegated to museums, and debates rage about whether or not public money should be spent to fund art (currently it is .004% of the national budget). Recent research may help to quiet this debate a bit: researcher Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College London, discovered that viewing art gives the same pleasure as falling in love.
In a series of pioneering brain-mapping experiments, Zeki scanned the brains of volunteers as they looked at 28 works of art, including works by Botticelli, Monet, and Constable. He found that viewing art triggers a surge of the feel-good chemical dopamine, into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain, resulting in feelings of intense pleasure. Dopamine and the orbito-frontal cortex are known to be involved in desire, affection, pleasure, and romantic love. They are also known to be involved in what makes illicit drug taking and certain activities (such as sex, stealing, gambling and eating) addictive. The physiological pleasure reaction when viewing art, Zeki says "was immediate."