Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Film Content, Editing, And Directing Style Affect Brain Activity, Neuroscientists Show

Date:
June 9, 2008
Source:
New York University
Summary:
Using advanced functional imaging methods, neuroscientists have found that certain motion pictures can exert considerable control over brain activity. Moreover, the impact of films varies according to movie content, editing, and directing style.

Using advanced functional imaging methods, New York University neuroscientists have found that certain motion pictures can exert considerable control over brain activity. Moreover, the impact of films varies according to movie content, editing, and directing style. Because the study, which appears in Projections: The Journal for Movies and Mind, offers a quantitative neuroscientific assessment of the impact of different styles of filmmaking on viewers' brains, it may serve as a valuable method for the film industry to better assess its products and offer a new method for exploring how the brain works.

The study's authors are: Uri Hasson, Barbara Knappmeyer, Nava Rubin, and David Heeger, who hold appointments in NYU's Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, as well as Ohad Landesman, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Cinema Studies at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and Ignacio Vallines, a research scientist at the University of Munich.

The researchers relied on two methodological tools in their study: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and inter-subject correlation (ISC) analysis. fMRI utilizes a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner--like that routinely used for clinical evaluation of human anatomy. But it is reprogrammed to get a time-series of three-dimensional images of brain activity. In a typical fMRI experiment, a time-series of brain activity images is collected while a stimulus or cognitive task is varied. ISC analysis is employed to measure similarities in brain activity across viewers--in this case, it compared the response in each brain region from one viewer to the response in the same brain region from other viewers. Because all viewers were exposed to the same films, computing ISC on a region-by-region basis identified brain regions in which the responses were similar across viewers.

"In cinema, some films lead most viewers through a similar sequence of perceptual, emotional, and cognitive states," the researchers wrote. "Such a tight grip on viewers' minds will be reflected in the similarity of the brain activity--or high ISC--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, resulting in low ISC."

To stimulate subjects' brain activity, the researchers showed them three motion picture clips: thirty minutes 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." To establish a baseline, subjects viewed a clip of unstructured reality: a 10-minute, unedited, one-shot video filmed during a concert in New York City's Washington Square Park.

The results showed that ISC of responses in subjects' neocortex--the portion of the brain responsible for perception and cognition--differed across the four movies:

  • The Hitchcock episode evoked similar responses across all viewers in over 65 percent of the neocortex, indicating a high level of control on viewers' minds;
  • High ISC was also extensive (45 percent) for "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly";
  • Lower ISC was recorded for "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (18 percent) and for the Washington Square Park, or unstructured reality, clip (less than 5 percent)

"Our data suggest that achieving a tight control over viewers' brains during a movie requires, in most cases, intentional construction of the film's sequence through aesthetic means," the researchers wrote. "The fact that Hitchcock was able to orchestrate the responses of so many different brain regions, turning them on and off at the same time across all viewers, may provide neuroscientific evidence for his notoriously famous ability to master and manipulate viewers' minds. Hitchcock often liked to tell interviewers that for him 'creation is based on an exact science of audience reactions.' "

However, the researchers emphasized that low and high ISC does not necessarily imply that the viewers were not attentive to or not engaged with the events in those films.

"ISC measures only the ability of the filmmaker to evoke similar responses across all viewers," they wrote. "Similar brain activity across viewers, or high ISC, can be taken as an indication that all viewers process and perceive the movie in a similar manner. Variability in the brain activity across viewers--that is, low ISC--can be due to either a less engaged processing of the incoming information, which occurs when daydreaming, or due to an intensely engaged but variable processing of a movie sequence."

For example, they add, an art film may demand an intense intellectual effort from viewers that differs from one viewer to the next, resulting in differences in neural activity.

Apart from the findings, the study points to a new method--inter-subject correlation (ISC) of brain activity--for measuring the effect of films on viewers' minds, which may pave the way to an innovative approach the researchers label "neurocinematic" studies. While they add that a cognitive science analysis of film is not new, functional imaging methods may be of use to both film theorists and the film industry by providing a quantitative, neuroscientific assessment of viewers' engagement with a film.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

New York University. "Film Content, Editing, And Directing Style Affect Brain Activity, Neuroscientists Show." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080606105432.htm>.
New York University. (2008, June 9). Film Content, Editing, And Directing Style Affect Brain Activity, Neuroscientists Show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080606105432.htm
New York University. "Film Content, Editing, And Directing Style Affect Brain Activity, Neuroscientists Show." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080606105432.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) As states slash funding for mental health services, police officers are interacting more than ever with people suffering from schizophrenia and other serious disorders of the mind. The consequences can be deadly. (April 10) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins