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Hit TV Show or Not? Brainwaves May Tell
Date:8/2/2014

FRIDAY, Aug. 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Here's news for TV programmers: Scanning viewers' brainwaves may help you spot a hit.

Tracking viewers' brain activity seems to predict the preferences of large TV audiences, according to a study based on viewers of broadcasts such as the drama series "The Walking Dead" and recent Super Bowl commercials.

The researchers compared brain activity of a few viewers to show-related Twitter traffic on the Internet. "When brainwaves were in agreement, the number of [supportive] tweets tended to increase," study senior author Lucas Parra, professor of biomedical engineering at City College of New York, said in a college news release.

As Parra's team explained it, people's brains respond similarly to engaging programming. And by drawing viewers' attention, popular TV shows and commercials produce brainwaves that appear to be in sync between people, the researchers found.

In conducting the study, published this week in Nature Communications, the researchers asked 16 participants to watch scenes from "The Walking Dead." They also watched several commercials from the 2012 and 2013 Super Bowls. While they watched, their brain activity was analyzed.

According to study lead author Jacek Dmochowski, simply asking people about their reactions to TV shows "are fraught with problems as people conform their responses to their own values and expectations," he said. On the other hand, tracking viewers' actual brainwaves as they watch TV gets around this inherent bias, he said.

Using brain imaging technology known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers found that brainwaves for engaging TV ads could be driven by activity in parts of the brain tied to vision, hearing and attention.

But does this neurological activity mirror the likes and dislikes of the wider public? To find out, the brainwaves of the participants were compared to reactions of the general population r
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