How does reality differ from cinema?

If we observe emotions in other people, the same regions become active in the brain that are also active when we feel the emotion ourselves. That's why our stomachs feel queasy even if it's just the movie hero Indiana Jones dangling over the abyss. For the emotion centers in the brain, fictional and real hardly make any difference. Neurologists from Holland and the USA are now showing that this effect is triggered in the same way by written texts.

The scientists led by Christian Keysers from the Neuroimaging Center of the Dutch University of Groningen showed test subjects short films in which a person drank from a cup and then made a disgusted face. They mapped the brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As expected, areas in the anterior insular cortex became active, an area of ​​the brain that plays a role, among other things, in the sensation of disgust.

They later asked the same test persons to read a disgusting text during the fMRI scan and, for comparison, measured the brain activity when drinking an unpleasant-tasting liquid.

The result: In all three cases, the same brain regions became active. Even if we only read one book, according to the researchers, we activate the same neural circuits that are also active in real experience - and therefore experience the fiction as if it were real.

Lars Fischer

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