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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Posted by Bill Benzon on 06/25/08 at 09:24 AM

Some folks at NYU have been doing some interesting work on how the brain responds to movies. They use a technique called inter-subject correlation analysis (ISC) in which regional responses were correlated across different subjects. Take some brain region, call it zleg. Monitor activity in the zleg of a half dozen different people as they watch, say, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and compare the time course of that activity across subjects. What you are interested in is how the level of zleg changes over time. Did Francine’s zleg go high (or low, or stay the same) at the same time as Fredo’s? as Molly’s? and Jason’s? and so on. The answer depends on what they are watching. In the case of GB&U, more or less yes. But if they’re watching a single 10-minute shot looking at New York City’s Washington Square Park, then the answer is no. The critical difference, of course, is that GB&U isn’t a single continuous shot; it’s a bunch of shots skillfully edited together to keep the viewer viewing.

There’s much more the the study than just that - or one thing, the didn’t monitor just zleg, but also yipyip, xaneb, whap, all the way through to corgon, binkets, and astrup. But that much will get you started. Here’s NYU’s press release, which is useful. Here’s a link straight to a PDF of the study (543 KB). Here’s a link to the web page of NYU’s Computational Neuroimaging Laboratory. I’ve put the full abstract below the fold.

I may make a more detailed post on this once I’ve had a chance to study and digest the work.

Hasson U, Landesman O, Knappmeyer B, Vallines I, Rubin N, Heeger DJ. Neurocinematics: The neuroscience of films. Projections: The Journal for Movies and Mind, 2:1-26, 2008.

Abstract: While the recognition that films can impose a tight grip on viewers’ minds dates back to the early days of cinema, until recently there was no way to record the mental states of viewers while watching a film. In this paper, we describe a new method for assessing the effect of a given film on viewers’ brain activity. Brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during free viewing of films, and inter-subject correlation analysis (ISC, Figure 1) was used to assess similarities in the spatiotemporal responses across viewers’ brains during movie watching. Our results demonstrate that some films can exert considerable control over brain activity (Figure 2) and eye movements (Figure 3). However, this was not the case for all types of motion picture sequences (Figure 4), and the level of control over viewers’ brain activity differed as a function of movie content (Figure 5), editing (Figure 6), anddirecting style (Figure 7). We propose that ISC may be useful to film studies by providing a quantitative neuroscientific assessment (Figures 8 and 9) of the impact of different styles of filmmaking upon viewers’ brains, and a valuable method for the film industry to better assess its products. Finally, we suggest that this method brings together two separate, largely unrelated disciplines, cognitive neuroscience and film studies, and may open the way for a new interdisciplinary field of “neurocinematic” studies.


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