What Happens to Your Brain When You Watch Scary Movies?

What Happens to Your Brain When You Watch Scary Movies?

The lights are off, with only the faint light of the television screen. You’re either surrounded by friends or you’ve created a protective castle of pillows to protect you from the monsters that are lurking around.

When you watch scary movies, do you jump? Have sweaty palms? Maybe you feel a little jittery? No worries, it’s perfectly normal to experience these reactions. Obviously, when you watch a movie, you know that what you are view is not real. However, some scenes seem so close to reality that it can put you in an instant sense of suspense. You are relating to the main character of the film and although the movie may be pretend, your emotions are real.


Scary Movies Directly Activate the Primitive Brain

When you watch a movie, your brain gives yourself a break and doesn’t use the motor areas because your body is relaxed. However, your brain may keep those motor areas on while watching a scary movie. This is what causes you to jump out of your seat!


Your Heart Rate Increases

Feel like you just ran a marathon? During scary movies, researched have found that your heart can increase up to 14 beats per minute. In addition, researchers found an increase in white blood cells in the blood, as if the body were to defend against an intruder.


Your Muscles Contract

Yep! That’ right. Once the primitive brain detects some kind of threat, it gives an alarm or signal to be ready for whatever may come your way. That could be your pet unexpectedly knocking something over during the movie, making you jump to the ceiling and/or squirming in your seat because the main character is stuck in something and the antagonist is coming. No wonder your hand was clenched so tightly during those scary scenes.


You Sweat

This is normal. When you’re nervous, scared, paranoid…you sweat. While watching a movie, your brain cannot detach the emotions you may feel with the protagonist, thus creating an empathic sweat.


You Get Sucked In

Have you ever watched a movie where you forgot you were in the theatre or over at your friends house? You were so focused on the film, you feel as if you were sucked in! When suspense grows on a movie, your brain activity in the peripheral visual processing decreases and your central focus increases. That means, everything around you fades away and it’s just you and the film.


As you continue to watch your favorite movies, now you're aware why our bodies react the way they do and what exactly our brain is trying to tell us. 

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