Avatar’s Effects on The Cerebral Cortex

Posted on February 2, 2010 by

avatarbrainTwo nights ago, I went to see Avatar. Although I had tempered expectation, in the end, I must admit that I became totally immersed in the film beginning to end. There were things about the film I did not like. The dialogue was riddled with clichés and the moralistic themes were over done.

There was, however, something mesmerizing about the film. It was visually spectacular. The 3D added to the experience of feeling you were right in the forest, the bugs all around you.  Mesmerizing is the best word I can think of.  In hindsight, the experience for me was like what one expects of  being hypnotised. It causes a de-activation of the conscious rational brain centers controlling logic, purposeful analysis and self-awareness. These are handled in our pre-frontal cortex which, I suspect,  for me was dormant during the film.

There are some interesting studies conducted on brain function during film viewing. One was done at Hebrew University using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). This study concluded that films can sometimes exert considerable control over brain activities and eye movements. The researchers found that viewers of the same film demonstrate peculiar patterns of brain activity, which was virtually universal. It showed remarkable similarity in the activation of the visual cortex, fusiform gyrus and areas of the brain controlling processing of touch.

The reason all of this seems relevant to me regarding the amazing film Avatar, is that it is a visually powerful film, at times so beautiful and rich and dynamic, it is overwhelming. Yet, despite my knowing this, I could not detach myself from the images on the screen. Part of this is the 3D technology. I think it would be instructive to test viewers of this film. Neurologists just might find potential therapeutic benefits to sparking certain parts of the brain. This, if verifiable, could create an entire new industry for Hollywood.

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