Watching movies affects the brain

Watching Clint arouses 45 per cent of your neocortex, apparently
Watching Clint arouses 45 per cent of your neocortex, apparently

A recent study by New York University neuroscientists has found that watching certain films affects brain activity more than others.

The study has been such a success that the film industry may use the findings when making its own movies.

Published in ‘Projections: The Journal for Movies and Mind’ – no, we haven’t heard of it either – the researchers wrote: "In cinema, some films lead most viewers through a similar sequence of perceptual, emotional, and cognitive states.

"Such a tight grip on viewers' minds will be reflected in the similarity of the brain activity across most viewers.

“By contrast, other films exert – either intentionally or unintentionally – less control over viewers' responses during movie watching. In such cases we expect that there will be less control over viewers' brain activity."

The films profiled

So, which films made people’s brains hurt and which made them brain dead? The researchers used three motion picture clips: a half-hour segment of Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad And The Ugly; an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents Bang! You're Dead; and an episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Hitchcock’s effort proved the most worthy when livening 65 per cent of the brain’s neocortex, while Larry David proved to be the worst brain-livener, as it mustered up just 18 per cent neocortex activity.

Those who watched a clip of McG’s Charlie’s Angels were officially declared braindead. Actually, we just made that last bit up, but if it was in the study we're sure that would have been the result.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.