Your Brain in 3D

How exciting to watch a movie like Avatar in 3D! It definitely makes the movie come to life! Do you ever wonder why you need special glasses to see a 3D movie, and just how do they work that is different from watching a movie in 2D?

To understand how your eyes can see a 3D image you have to understand the process that is involved in making a 3D movie. Two separate 2D images are projected on the screen at the same time. We only see the world in 2D because the world we live in is projected onto our retinas is in 2D — our brain constructs a 3D world. Since there are an infinite number of images — what we see is only one of a series of images the brain constructs for us to choose from. The glasses we wear to watch 3D movies are constructed so that one eye sees only one of the images, while the other eye sees the other image. Your brain has to do extra heavy-duty work in order to receive different signals from both eyes and combine them into one image.

According to Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston, while you are sitting in front of the giant screen sopping up popcorn your are processing 24 images a second. You brain is doing pretty much nothing else than trying to synchronize what you see.

Looking at a movie in 3D requires so much heavy brainwork to process all this information it doesn’t have the energy for anything else. Your pre-frontal cortex, involved in impulse control, moral choices and future thinking is essentially de-activated. This is why you seem to ‘get lost’ in the action on the screen.

Because of the extra workout your brain has to do to accommodate all the sensory changes it may be exciting to watch, but overwhelming and exhausting as well. So, if you are tired after coming out of a 3D movie, you should be.

A note of caution: Children can be extremely vulnerable to the content in any movie, but especially a 3D movie because everything will seem amplified. If they were shown something they would be afraid of when watching a 2D movie it will be especially frightening for them in 3D.

Something else worth noting – some people experience headaches and nausea while watching a 3D movie. This is due to a conflict between your eyes and your inner ear. Your brain is getting signals from your eyes that you are moving, while your surrounding are not. Your inner ear is telling your brain you are not moving. The conflict causes vertigo, an imbalance. To stop this feeling, look away from the screen and close your eyes to allow your body and mind to become re-oriented.

My name is Ron White, I am a memory-training expert and two-time USA Memory Champion. I thought this was an interesting topic to discuss — especially when more movies are coming out in 3D. I hope you enjoyed it.

Memory Training


Children’s Hospital of Boston – What goes on in the brain during a 3D movie?:

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