You already knew that watching movies like Jumper or the Planet of the Apes remake makes your brain hurt, but now neuroscientists have proof. When you watch a great movie, your brain marches in lockstep with the brains of the other viewers. Terrible movies invoke synaptic chaos. Could filmmakers use this knowledge to create movies that intentionally tap into your neural responses?
A bunch of scientists at New York University made their test subjects watch several movies while recording their brain patterns with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI - basically like stop-motion MRI). We checked, and none of the scientists was named Dr. Clayton Forrester or TV's Frank. In any case, the subjects watched a Hitchcock movie, a portion of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." They also watched unedited footage of a concert in a park as a control.
The results showed that the brain patterns of subjects watching a "good" movie (Hitchcock) were remarkably similar - 65 percent similar, in fact. The number diminished slightly with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly , and further for the sitcom, with similarity bottoming out with the raw footage (around 5 percent). The researchers did not test the subjects with Monster A Go-Go or Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, but then they probably wouldn't have been able to get informed consent. Image by: 20th Century Fox.