E-Motion Pictures of the Brain: Recursive Paths Between Affective Neuroscience and Film Studies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Experimental psychologists and neuroscientists often adopt film excerpts in order to study the secrets of human emotions. This chapter considers intersections between brain and film studies when dealing with emotions. The proximity of these fields has been recently appreciated, including in the research of emotional experience. In both cases, perceptual and cognitive information is carefully assembled to efficiently elicit emotional reactions in the viewers. However, despite these commonalities and the related potential mutual benefits, the interaction between these disciplines has been occasional and a systematic communication channel has yet to be established. In specific with respect to brain imaging of emotions, the flow of scientific information is largely one-sided: while commercial films are often utilized for the aim of identifying neural correlates of certain emotions, empirical neuroscientific research of “pure” emotion-related cinematic notions (such as the effects of different styles of editing, soundtrack, cinematic narrative, acting, and so on) is virtually a virgin land. Film studies, on the other hand, have only recently begun to look at emotions per se and have only occasionally referred to neuroscience while proposing new hypotheses to brain studies. This recourse to neuroscience has often been limited to only one strand within the field of film studies known as “Cognitivist”. This chapter is devoted to introducing some of the work and challenges in each field to scholars in the other area of study, and to underline the possibilities for future joint research to form an academic interface between the two areas of study.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPsychocinematics: Exploring Cognition at the Movies
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199862139
StatePublished - 2013


  • emotional experience, cinematic emotions, neurocinematics, functional-MRI, neural and affective dynamism, neural activity and connectivity, cognitive film theory, psychoanalysis and cinema


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