Colloquium Vision Science

14 April 2015
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The effect of watching movies from differential perspectives on eye-movement and brain-activity patterns

In our combined eye-movement tracking and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, we have had healthy volunteers watch short movie clips from different perspectives. In our first study (Nummenmaa L et al. J Neurosci 34:748-757, 2014) we had 20 volunteers watch short (~10 sec) movie clips taken from boxing matches, and simulating ("putting themselves into the shoes of") either the winning or the losing boxer (vs. passive viewing as a third condition). In our second study (Lahnakoski JM et al. Neuroimage 100: 316-324, 2014), we presented 10-min movie clip taken from an episode of TV-series “Desperate housewives” twice to 33 volunteers. On one of the runs, the subjects were to watch the clip as an interior decorator (“non-social perspective”), and on the other run, the subjects were to watch the clip as a forensic detective (“social perspective”). In both studies, eye-movement patterns differed significantly between the perspective conditions: in the first study, there were more fixations on the winning vs. losing boxer depending on whether the subjects watched the clips from the winner vs. loser perspective. In the second study, there were more fixations in the middle of the screen during forensic detective than during interior decorator perspective, probably explained by movie characters occupying more central screen positions. Further, saccades were shorter and fixations longer during the detective perspective. In both studies active simulation and perspective taking activated dorsal-stream visual areas, posterior parietal cortical areas, and ventral-posterior temporal areas, suggesting that these areas support internal-model guided attention during natural viewing conditions. During simulation of boxers, somatosensory, motor-cortical, and insular activity was additionally observed. We failed to see any significant associations between the inter-subject similarity in eye-movements and inter-subject similarity in brain hemodynamic activity in any of the brain regions.