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What happens in your brain when you take pictures?

Very few people know exactly what happens in our brains when we do something: reactions to sexual stimuli, areas that are triggered by memories or the process that is generated to tell a lie, among many other things. Way back in, while you do all those things naturally, they move the cables that determine everything.

As I like photography, above all other things I do, I wanted to close options and find out what happens in my brain since I start looking for a beautiful landscape or a portrait possible. How much have to see the photos I took with my memory?How much is edited my mind when I edit a picture? How important is photography for human relationships? Joshua Sarinana is a neuroscientist, amateur photographer and researcher at Harvard University with a very serious focus on memory and learning and brain supplement genius x. I talked to him to tell me what the brain process a photographer (the before, during and after).

Photo via Flickr.

VICE: How did you start to study the brain in relation to photography?
Joshua Sarinana: My interest in neuroscience has always been focused on memory, and that was born from my inclination towards philosophy. The camera is a very good metaphor for memory, because that’s what you’re doing: capturing an image forever. The more I became interested in neuroscience, I learned more about how memory works. My pictures began to focus increasingly on how memory changes and how it is updated. When I look at old photographs remind me of the time I spent in Paris, for example, and I remember the events that took place as he took that picture. Now, 14 years into the future, that information is simply updated because that is the way the brain works: Every time you remember a moment, that memory can be changed, because when the reactive brain causes it to become malleable. Many times new information can be inserted into this memory: I think that’s how a picture serves to remember something that happened, funneling the ability to update your past with your present.

Do you think a person taking photos during a trip or a party has a better memory of events that a person who has been there but did not take pictures?
I think so. There is evidence to prove this. Microsoft did a study with people who have some damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for keeping autobiographical memories. The hippocampus does not have the data that you learned in school or things you know about your loved ones, but the information that is part of your personality. Patients in the experiment did not have the ability to generate these reports. The experiment was to hang a camera around his neck to the people with this deficiency in the hippocampus and asked them to look photos at night. The memories are not faded, as if would in any other way: can withhold information about what happened during the day much longer.

Phillip Toledano’s father. Every time she looked in the mirror, it was not recognized because in his mind was still 20 years. Toledano says that although distressed whenever I saw her reflection, a few minutes he forgot and soothed. Photo by Philip Toledano.

When you look at a picture, the image is saved in place other than the hippocampus?
Yes, that’s the original idea. It is not yet known, it is completely unknown. It may be a little more sensory memory. Then, if it is more sensory, emotions are not so connected to the moment. I think there is much potential for this type of research. It is important to understand how we remember events of our lives.

Photo via Wikipedia

Let ‘s talk about photo editing. In an experiment you did, you edit a photograph of a boy and his father in the garden and put mounted in an air balloon. You asked the son, who was already an adult, if you remember this picture. What happened there?
It works like this : the person at first will not remember the moment when you ask to look at the fake photograph. But the hippocampus, which is a part of very important also for imagination brain is activated, and can create a memory from imagination. You will not believe it’s real. It happens subtly and unconsciously.

The original photograph of a father and son (left) and the photo showed the child as part of the experiment (right). Photo via .

And he invented a memory with this new picture?
A few weeks after I said that he remembered nothing, the son began to tell methings out of context. He said it must have been about six years that her sister probably had ten. He recalled that near his school offered air balloon trips, then told me the place where the event occurred. He also told me it was her mother that was on the floor taking the picture. The act of imagination caused the memory was formed. There was no question of imagining intentionally, but from the moment he saw the photo and felt an empty memory, imagination was activated in the hippocampus and created a memory.

How much do I have to edit a photo to change my mind? If I correct the colors of a photograph, my memories of that time are also going to be more vivid?
It’s hard to say. When I go back to my photographs, or take a photo and edit and then I look back after a year, I remember the original photo, but the edited photo.I always remember me photography post production and sometimes I look at the original photo and reached a surprise because I do not remember it that way, but it more closely resembles what it looked like in reality.

Can it happen that a person cuts a photo and then not remember that person was originally yes there?
Yes, exactly.

Or if you edit a photo and puts it in black and white, then when he recalls the moment he remembers the image in black and white and does not remember the color scheme that was the actual scene.
Yes, it’s a good point.

Photo via Flickr.

Is that knowledge of the brain has helped you in your work as aphotographer?
Interact. I have some images that are more personal, dealing with issues from my past, and those pictures can reflect on my past and understand it more. Then I know that whenever I think about my past, I am constantly changing it and also the way I remember. Every time I take a picture, I always think how I will remember in the future. What part I will agree when you see this picture in the future? Am I going to remember the positive things or negative things? I always wonder how I will generate a story from my photos in the future. That is one aspect. The other is attention. When I take a picture I immediately think how I’ll edit, how can I change or alter the colors or within what series I’m going to get.Understanding the brain mechanisms behind this, I think not necessarily impact my picture directly, but help me understand how my photography, in order to organize my images in a story.

I read it was the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for predicting future events according to information you already know. So if I’m going to take a picture, and say that I’m looking at a subject that is moving, try to predict how that subject is going to move and try to calculate what is the best time to take the picture. How important is this process for a photographer?
Pay attention always going to be super important for a photographer. In direct picture you have to very quickly anticipate the movement of someone. We must be very attentive to human behavior. But that mindfulness, after you’re taking pictures a long time, it becomes intuition, which is unconscious. The prefrontal cortex is important for learning and anticipating what is street photography.When intuition becomes, however, the prefrontal cortex still important.

Photo via Flickr.

Let’s talk about selfies. Some psychologists say that the more selfies a person is narcissistic is taken. What do you think from the point of view of neuroscience?
I think taking selfies is something natural. I do not think it’s as bad as people say it is. Obviously there are extreme cases. There was a guy who tried to kill himself because he failed to see his selfie is perfect. But this happens in people who are compulsive: if they have the technology, they would choose another activity.

You write about anxiety disorder and equipment purchases at photographers. Is that feeling is increased by the amount of photos we see and competition we have?
I think people are afraid to be creative. Me too I’m afraid to take unoriginal photos, or continue taking similar photos. People feel very anxious to be creative, because being creative means to get out of what you have already done. You have to do something completely new, and that is very scary. One way in which we deal with this anxiety, or the fear of potential failure is to try to feel good.Then we do something like buying a new camera. I feel good after buying a camera. It is the same feeling of having a glass of wine after a stressful day at work, but buying is more expensive photographic equipment. But that’s just a crutch. It is a way to avoid doing something that causes us anxiety.

You tell me about mirror neurons.
This is a cognitive area we are trying to understand and that takes place in the temporoparietal junction. There is a parallel phenomenon of cognitive, called “mirror neurons.” These neurons are activated when someone is imitating someone else, or even looking at another person and are in the parietal posterior cortex: they are interesting because they give us the ability to imitate other people. Mimicry is important to understand how people feel. If I see someone who is sad, the same muscles that are activated in your face to show that sadness, are to be activated in mine, and, to a lesser extent, make me feel sad.When you see the picture of a sad person, reading their emotions, the muscles of your face will imitate that person. You feel connected. The same happens in the movies.

Let ‘s sad to see this photo. Photo via Flickr.

At one point you wrote “images that reflect our connectedness in a world that can be so inhuman as ours.” What did you mean?
My point was that photography is important to emotionally connect with each other. The reason why war photography is important is because it implies that there are atrocities that are happening, where people are dying. We have to see these pictures to try to feel how it feels and thus not to repeat certain actions. It is good not hurt between us, so we are very good at it. My point is that photography can make us empathize with other people and that is important to help us connect with others mechanism. The world is very inhumane, there is much injustice, many wars. Photography helps us somehow to be better.