How Does 3D Film Effect The Brain?

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Which Genre Is Best For 3D?

In a unique neurological experiment, neuroscientist Patrick Fagan (Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths) and Professor Brendan Walker of Thrill Laboratory have found that watching films in 3D sharpen the brain for a protracted period after the movie has been watched and have a short-term “brain training” effect.

The research, in which over 100 people were exposed to 3D and standard format films at Vue’s Piccadilly cinema found that participants experienced a 23% increase in cognitive processing. Reaction times were improved by 11%. While temporary, watching a film in 3D gives the brain a “boost” that can last up to 20 minutes after viewing.

Not only did 3D films have an absolute impact on brain performance, the research also found that the improvement in reaction time was five times higher as a result of viewing content in 3D versus 2D content. The improvement was 11% for those who watched in 3D but by just 2% amongst those who had viewed an identical clip in 2D. Cognitive processing was improved by twice as much, improving by 11% amongst participants who watched the 2D film against a 23% improvement seen in those who watched in 3D.



Fagan and Walker believe that watching films in 3D before undertaking tasks that require speed of reaction – such as those who want to improve their ability in sports including boxing or tennis or even doctors about to undertake surgery – are likely to see enhanced performance.

The experiment was conducted in two parts; in addition to Patrick Fagan’s cognitive brain tests, Professor Brendan Walker used brain-monitoring headsets to assess changes in participants’ neurological activity.

Today’s 3D films are more like watching in ‘real life’ – additional test results showed a significant 7% shift in ‘engagement’ when consumers watched a film in 3D in comparison to 2D. Interestingly, spectacle wearers were more immersed by 3D than non-spectacle wearers.

Commenting on the results, Patrick Fagan states, “These findings are more significant than you might think. 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.”

Vue spokesperson comments, “A visit to the cinema is all about enjoying the very best big screen entertainment, and this research demonstrates the power of 3D. Not only do great 3D films offer the most immersive movie-going experience, but they can also provide these additional benefits to the brain – in the most entertaining way possible.”

Katy Phillips, Marketing Director at RealD said, “The results of this study are extremely significant – at RealD, our priority is our customers and their enjoyment in the 3D experience. The fact that they are not only engaged and immersed in this experience but they are potentially improving the sharpness of their brain function at the same time is really uplifting. As a result of this experiment, we look forward to seeing more 3D and encourage you to visit a cinema near you soon.”


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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