It’s Official: Magicians Mess With Minds

Example of Magic Hat Worn Incorrectly

Call us square but we just can’t wait for the 24th of
each month so we can get our new issue of the Cerebral Cortex from the
UK. (As far as we’re concerned, Cerebral Cortex is THE journal for the
study of neurobiology and neuropsychological — plus it has the best
cartoons).

Well, this month was no disappointment. We couldn’t imagine how it would top Dr. A.M. Clare Kelly’s groundbreaking work, Human Functional Neuroimaging of Brain Changes Associated with Practice.
Readers of our sister newsletter, Neurological Science Magic News no
doubt recall the review of Dr. Kelly’s article with particular focus on
her suggestion that there is no direct correlation between the amount
of practice (repetition) and the brain’s ability to focus on the task.
We’ve long believed it was not how much you practiced but how you
practiced. We’ve always bought into the notion of cortical plasticity
— even before it became hip.

Anyway, this month’s issue has Dr. Lavie’s study on how the brain
detects changes to visual images and where that brain function is
located.

Dr. Lavie’s study is covered by Irish Medicine, Oxford Press, Medical News Today, and even The New Scientist. We noted, sadly, not one of the magic news sites carried a story on this research.

Dr. Lavie specifically said “The findings may help explain how magic
tricks work. If the parietal cortex is concentrating on what the
magician’s left hand is doing, it is not available to notice sleight of
hand by the right.”

The docs used magnetic stimulation through a coil to shut-down the
parietal cortex of the brain. “Without help from this region of the
brain, subjects failed to notice even major visual changes- in this
case a change of a person’s face.

It was a surprise to find out it is also important for detecting
visual changes in a scene. The finding that this region of the brain
has both these functions, concentration and visual awareness, explains
why we can be so easily deceived by, say, a magicians’ trick.

When we’re concentrating so hard on something that our processing
capacity is at its limits, the parietal cortex is not available to pay
attention to new things and even dramatic changes can go unnoticed. If
you’re concentrating on what the magician’s left hand is doing, you
won’t notice what the right hand is doing.”

You can read a press-release on the study in Medical News Today

So what does this mean for the table-hopper or kids’ show magician?

Obviously, if you can some how get the audience to concentrate on
what you are saying or doing whilst performing your sleight, you’ll get
away with it. You can also buy one of the new Inside Magic “Magic
Hats.” Although powered by a 9-volt battery, the magnetic coil in each
of the attractive party hats is sufficient to paralyze the parietal
cortex to allow you to get away…

Example of Magic Hat Worn Incorrectly

Call us square but we just can’t wait for the 24th of
each month so we can get our new issue of the Cerebral Cortex from the
UK. (As far as we’re concerned, Cerebral Cortex is THE journal for the
study of neurobiology and neuropsychological — plus it has the best
cartoons).

Well, this month was no disappointment. We couldn’t imagine how it would top Dr. A.M. Clare Kelly’s groundbreaking work, Human Functional Neuroimaging of Brain Changes Associated with Practice.
Readers of our sister newsletter, Neurological Science Magic News no
doubt recall the review of Dr. Kelly’s article with particular focus on
her suggestion that there is no direct correlation between the amount
of practice (repetition) and the brain’s ability to focus on the task.
We’ve long believed it was not how much you practiced but how you
practiced. We’ve always bought into the notion of cortical plasticity
— even before it became hip.

Anyway, this month’s issue has Dr. Lavie’s study on how the brain
detects changes to visual images and where that brain function is
located.

Dr. Lavie’s study is covered by Irish Medicine, Oxford Press, Medical News Today, and even The New Scientist. We noted, sadly, not one of the magic news sites carried a story on this research.

Dr. Lavie specifically said “The findings may help explain how magic
tricks work. If the parietal cortex is concentrating on what the
magician’s left hand is doing, it is not available to notice sleight of
hand by the right.”

The docs used magnetic stimulation through a coil to shut-down the
parietal cortex of the brain. “Without help from this region of the
brain, subjects failed to notice even major visual changes- in this
case a change of a person’s face.

It was a surprise to find out it is also important for detecting
visual changes in a scene. The finding that this region of the brain
has both these functions, concentration and visual awareness, explains
why we can be so easily deceived by, say, a magicians’ trick.

When we’re concentrating so hard on something that our processing
capacity is at its limits, the parietal cortex is not available to pay
attention to new things and even dramatic changes can go unnoticed. If
you’re concentrating on what the magician’s left hand is doing, you
won’t notice what the right hand is doing.”

You can read a press-release on the study in Medical News Today

So what does this mean for the table-hopper or kids’ show magician?

Obviously, if you can some how get the audience to concentrate on
what you are saying or doing whilst performing your sleight, you’ll get
away with it. You can also buy one of the new Inside Magic “Magic
Hats.” Although powered by a 9-volt battery, the magnetic coil in each
of the attractive party hats is sufficient to paralyze the parietal
cortex to allow you to get away with almost anything.

It is important the Magic Hat be placed correctly on the
participant’s noggin. If you get the magnetic coil on the other side of
the skull, they will still be unable to figure out your trick but they
will also lose the ability to control other bodily functions normally
kept in check during a stage show. 

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