Watching 3D films helps boost brain power

Members of a cinema audience wear brain-scanning headsets as they watch a 3D movie during an experiment led by a neuroscientist fromGoldsmiths University. Picture: Mikael Buck/RealD/PA

Watching films in 3D exercises the brain and improves short-term functioning in a similar way to brain-training tests, a group of scientists have claimed.

An experiment, led by a neuroscientist from Goldsmiths University, has found that people who watch video in 3D have improved cognitive skills compared to those who watch in 2D.

More than 100 people took part in an experiment where participants watched Disney film Big Hero 6 in either standard format or RealD 3D, as well as carrying out a brain-training-style test before and after seeing a segment from the film.

The test covered memory, reaction times and cognitive function, and the results were subsequently compared.

According to the research, which was carried out in partnership with science group Thrill Laboratory, participants experienced a 23% increase in cognitive processing, as well as an 11% increase in reaction times.

Neuroscientist Patrick Fagan, an associate lecturer at Goldsmiths, said that the results showed enough of an improvement in brain function to suggest that 3D could play a part in improving brain power in the future.

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“These findings are more significant than you might think,” he said.

“It is a fact that people are living longer and there is a noticeable decline in cognitive brain function in old age which can impair future quality of life.

“There has never been a better time to look at ways to improve brain function.

“The initial results of this study indicate that 3D films may potentially play a role in slowing this decline.”

A second part of the experiment involved those watching the film being fitted with headsets that scanned brain activity, and this too showed heightened activity when watchingin 3D.

According to the results, participants were 7% more engaged with what they were watching, adding to the argument that 3D movies are more like watching real-life, something Brendan Walker from Thrill Laboratory agreed with.

“A 7% rise in emotional engagement is extremely noteworthy — watching in 3D gives the viewer such an enriched and quality experience, as these results show,” said Prof Walker.

“In evolutionary terms, the results of both parts of the test certainly make sense,” said Mr Fagan.

“As Professor Brendan Walker’s test concluded, 3D films are more immersive, heighten the senses and induce emotional arousal — this, in turn, makes the brain run at quicker speeds.”

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