Your Brain Goes to the Movies

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Heather Berlin is a cognitive neuroscientist, clinical psychologist, and Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dr. Berlin is a committee member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Committee on Science and Technology Engagement with the Public. She co-hosts StarTalk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and hosted the PBS series Science Goes to the Movies, and the Discovery Channel series Superhuman Showdown.




Films engage us visually, aurally, viscerally, and emotionally. But how exactly does that work at the level of your brain? If you’re already fascinated by movies from the standpoint of human behavior and storytelling, try watching them with a neuroscientist. Take a journey with cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin into the human mind, exploring its relationship to cinema. Dr. Berlin will look at what cognitive science tells us about how we watch movies. Watching films not only affects our minds and brains, but we also continually create our own imaginative “films” in our mind’s eye which we can now begin to decode using cutting-edge neuro-imaging technology.

Further, given the current threats of climate change and a global pandemic, communicating science clearly and accessibly is one of our most important challenges. And film is a great tool for science engagement, evoking emotions that help us learn and remember. Incorporating science themes into films has the potential to reach new audiences and pique their interests, inspiring them to engage in a broader discussion of science’s role in society. Dr. Berlin will take us on a tour of iconic films that engage with science, unpacking the narrative strategies employed and highlighting which films got it right and which got it terribly wrong.



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