Watching 3D films boosts your brain power

The research was carried out by a group of neuroscientists in conjunction - we should note - with RealD, who supply 3D systems and glasses to cinemas. So it's fair to say they have a vested interest.

Nevertheless, the research, which was conducted on over 100 people, claims watching 3D films can have a short-term "brain training" effect, sharpening the brain in a variety of ways for up to 20 minutes after viewing.

Reaction times were apparently improved by 11%, compared to a 2% improvement for those who watched in 2D. Cognitive processing meanwhile was supposedly boosted by 23% after watching a 3D film, compared to 11% for those who watched the 2D version.

The research suggested a "7% shift in engagement" with 3D compared to 2D, too, which Professor Brendan Walker, of the aptly-named Thrill Laboratory, called "extremely noteworthy".

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Patrick Fagan, neuroscientist and associate lecturer at Goldsmiths University, London, said: "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." Repeat viewings of Avatar 3D for the elderly person in your life, then?

Of course, another way of looking at this is that your brain is simply working harder during a 3D film, which may or may not be what you're after from a visit to your local multiplex.

As Fagan himself said: "3D films are more immersive, heighten the senses and induce emotional arousal - this, in turn, makes the brain run at quicker speeds." So, it's more of a work out for your brain - and it keeps whirring for a while afterwards.

Still, it's another thing to consider when you weigh-up whether to watch the next blockbuster in 3D or not... Like Mad Max: Fury Road, for example.

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Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is the Content Director for What Hi-Fi? and Future’s Product Testing, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for almost 20 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).