Shalom Life | October 15, 2014

Israeli Study Says Moviegoers And Schizophrenics Share Similar Brain Activity

Using a scene from the movie 'Black Swan,' Tel Aviv University neuroscientist Prof. Talma Hendler presented her research on the mental and emotional reaction of viewers to this particularly haunting scene

By: NoCamels Team

Published: October 14th, 2014 in Health » Israel

Photo Caption: Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"


Spoiler alert!: If you’ve seen the movie “Black Swan,” then you’ll be familiar with the scene near the end when Nina, played by actress Natalie Portman, begins to hallucinate that she is becoming the swan she will portray in a ballet as feathers grow out of her back. Nina is the protagonist of Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 thriller that depicts the fierce competition in the professional ballet world through the eyes of one troubled dancer.

At a recent event hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Tel Aviv University neuroscientist Prof. Talma Hendler presented her research on the mental and emotional reaction of viewers to this particularly haunting scene. She found that when people watch the scene, their brain patterns resemble those in people with diagnosed schizophrenia. Introducing her unique research to one of the world’s foremost directors, writers and producers of psychological thrillers, Aronofsky himself was touched by her comments and encouraged by the scientific proof to back them up.

“My suggestion to you is that as Nina is getting crazier and crazier, the audience experiences something like schizophrenia,” Hendler stated to the panel’s audience, displaying the fMRI images that highlight the fascinating correlation between innocent movie watching and a serious psychological disorder.

Moviegoers And Schizophrenics Share Similar Brain Activity, Study Shows

Academy panel with Director Darren Aronofsky

Living a movie

At the Oscars event, Prof. Hendler explained her research on the investigating networks in the brain and their role in empathy, or the capacity to share and recognize another person’s emotions. She and her team found evidence for at least two kinds of empathy experienced in the brain when watching a film; the first was “mental empathy,” or feelings that require the viewer to step outside of their own selves and consider what another person is thinking or experiencing. The second was “embodied empathy,” or the intuitive, primal empathy that someone might feel when they witness another person getting punched or wounded.

This article was first published on NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News and was re-posted with permission. To continue reading this article on the site, click here.

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