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How does the brain change with age? Part #5: Hitchcock emotional movie response task

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Published on Jul 23, 2013

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The Cam-CAN study runs a clutch of cognitive and motor experiments to test the functional and cognitive abilities of the brain. Participants involved in the next stage of the project will do more tasks in the MRI scanner," says Cam-CAN Research Assistant Sofia Gerbase. "For example, an emotional memory task and an emotional regulation task."

One of the more intriguing experiments is ones to measure emotional reactions. Interestingly, our emotional reactions do not necessarily decline and can become more positive as we age -- older people, after all, do not weep less at sad films or laugh less at funny ones, but they may remember the happier parts better and cope with the sadder parts. To look into the brain's emotion centres and why this is, participants are shown a short Alfred Hitchcock film whilst in an fMRI scanner.

Alfred Hitchcock is famed for dark films full of suspense. In the film, a small boy is playing with a toy gun with a friend as adults talk amongst themselves. Unbeknownst the chattering adults, the boy discovers a real gun and bullet, and proceeds to play with it, pulling the trigger as if it's his own toy. Similar to Russian roulette, how long will it be before the bullet reaches the chamber and the real gun is fired for real? All the while, the fMRI scanner is measuring the participant's reaction the events.

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