Watching a movie in three-dimensions (3D) is pretty exciting, and it certainly makes the movie come to life, but don’t you wonder how our eyes and our brains process information when looking at the screen?

In order to understand how a 3D image is processed you need to understand how 3D works. Your eyes only see in 2 dimensions (2D), so in order for the brain to synthesize the third dimension the movie people take two separate 2D images and project them on a screen at the same time. According to Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston, The 3D glasses you wear block out one image on one side, and the other image on the other side of the glasses (each eye blocks out one image). Your brain is then heavily involved with synchronizing the images to combine them into one 3D image.

So, what is your brain doing as you are sopping up popcorn and staring at the giant screen in your 3D glasses – pretty much nothing else. That is because you are giving your brain and all your senses a real workout. 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.

You are processing 24 images per second as the screen projects the movie. Your pre-frontal cortex, involved in impulse control, moral choices and future thinking is essentially de-activated – which is why you seem to ‘get lost’ in what you are seeing.

Are you tired after coming out of a 3D movie? You should be. Due to the extra exertion your brain has to go through to accommodate all the sensory changes it can be exciting, but overwhelming and exhausting. Children, especially, can be more vulnerable to the content, so it’s advisable to screen the movie before allowing children to watch. Something in the movie that would normally scare them could amplify their reaction if they see it on the big screen in 3D!

Something worth noting, some people experience headaches and nausea during a 3D movie. That is due to the brain receiving signals from your eyes that you are moving, in relation to your immediate surroundings, but your inner ear is telling your brain that you are not moving. In order to avoid this feeling you need to look away from the screen and close your eyes in order to allow yourself to re-orient.

My name is Ron White, I am a 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.







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