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Why Suspenseful Movies Keep Your Eyes Glued To The Screen

Stashed in: Brain, Are You Not Entertained?, Brain, Film, Neuroscience

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Because of brain activity in the calcarine sulcus.

Bezdek compared subjects’ reported suspense levels with activity across the brain, but one area in particular stood out: the calcarine sulcus, which is responsible for visual processing. He found that in moments of high suspense, areas of the CS associated with the visual periphery suddenly became quieter, even though the peripheral checkerboards should have kept them whipped up in a frenzy. Simultaneously, brain activity increased in areas of the CS associated with the center of the visual field. In other words, the scenes’ most nerve-wracking moments narrowed subjects’ visual focus, the attention equivalent of making a spotlight narrower and brighter.

Interestingly, this change in visual attention appears to have little to do with changes in a movie scene’s visuals, such as its moment-to-moment brightness. Bezdek found that the visual elements in high-stress and low-stress snippets weren’t different enough from each other to explain the sudden changes in brain activity. Instead, visual attention seemed to change based on more abstract concerns: the plot of the scene and the perceived threats facing the characters.

This is so cool.

It's like tapping directly into that specific brain circuit. 

With nothing more than our imaginations.

Such is the power of the human brain.

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