lunes, 7 de enero de 2013

The Love Competition

Stanford's Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging measures and compares people's brain activity as they think about love

WIRED Video: Neuroscientists Measure Brain Activity in Love Competition
6:30 AM

In the short film The Love Competition, scientists measure the brain activity of seven people as they pondered love. Image courtesy Wholphin
Is it possible for one person to love more than another? In an attempt to find out, filmmaker Brent Hoff teamed with Stanford University neuroscientists to test lovers’ abilities, using an fMRI to monitor brain activity and measure whose adoration was the strongest.

The results can be seen in The Love Competition, a short film directed by Hoff (watch the whole thing below). The San Francisco director, who edits DVD magazine Wholphin, said he knows the idea of reducing love to a neurochemical blood sport might rub some people the wrong way, but he hopes people see the film in the good-natured way he intended.

With the way we view sports, we look at them in such a hard, unforgiving way — you win or you don’t — and the idea of taking love and making it either-you-win-or-you-don’t is, I agree, kind of horrible,” Hoff told Wired. “But that’s not what this film is.

He said part of his reason for making the film came from the fact that he’s “sort of obsessed with the idea of emotional competitions” (he previously made a short called The Crying Competition). His new film follows seven contestants as they are placed in an fMRI to have activity in their brains measured as they try to love someone as hard as they can for five minutes.

To develop his latest “competition,” Hoff enlisted the help of researchers at the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging. Research director Bob Dougherty assisted with development of the love test, while Melina Uncapher served as the film’s scientific director.

It turns out — based on the levels of activity in the dopamine, serotonin and ocytocin/vasopressin pathways — it is possible for one person to exhibit that they can love someone more deeply than another person can. But what’s amazing about The Love Competition is seeing the participants talk about their loves and the effects the fMRI tests had on them. Many come out almost giddy when the test is complete, and one woman tearily explains that she just feels lucky for the love she’s had in her life.

What they found was unique, Hoff said, because the player with the lowest score was actually the one who probably “won” in the long run.

“The guy who lost, who came in dead last, was probably the happiest of anyone; he realized he wasn’t in love with his ex-girlfriend,” Hoff said. “He walks out of there with his arms raised, triumphant.”

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Wholphin, which is put out quarterly by McSweeney’s, is letting Wired share the entire film below. The Love Competition will appear in the DVD quarterly’s 15th issue (available to order now) and will also be showing at South by Southwest as part of the documentary short competition next month.

Watch The Love Competition, think really hard about how much you love someone, and get your neurochemistry flowing.

CNI reception area
CNI control room
MRI scanner at CNI

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