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How Movies Activate Your Neural G-Spot

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Here’s a typical “date night” with me and Hollywood: I don’t know what I want to see. Neither does Hollywood. But it bangs on my eyeballs and eardrums like Stanley Kowalski anyway. Sometimes I come away from the multiplex reasonably satisfied; other times I’m bummed beyond measure. It’s like some endless, brutal visit to the optometrist: This explosion or that explosion? This superintelligent shark or that zombie anaconda? It’s all so clumsy, so imprecise.

Which is why I’m thrilled to learn that Hollywood has found a way to improve its hit rate. Not with better filmmaking — God forbid, we don’t want artistry gumming up our popcorn flicks — but with science.

Get ready for the optimized moviegoing experience, where every instant is calculated to tickle your neural G-spot — all thanks to functional magnetic resonance imaging, soon to be every director’s new best friend.

That’s the dream of MindSign Neuromarketing, a fledgling San Diego firm with an ambitious, slightly Orwellian charter: to usher in the age of “neurocinema,” the real-time monitoring of the brain’s reaction to movies, using ever-improving fMRI technology. The company uses the scanning technique to track blood flow to specific areas (especially the amygdalae, those darling little almonds of primal emotion) while a test subject watches a movie.

Right now, the metrics are pretty crude, but in theory, studios could use fMRI to fine-tune a movie’s thrills, chills, and spills with clickwheel ease, keeping your brain perpetually at the redline. MindSign cofounder Philip Carlsen said in an NPR interview that he foresees a future where directors send their dailies (raw footage fresh from the set) to the MRI lab for optimization. “You can actually make your movie more activating,” he said, “based on subjects’ brains.”

From Wired
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