In the world of the Fortean many events happen where people doubt the evidence of their own eyes. We often see events that don't add up when initially perceived and now it appears that there are specific parts of the brain that flag up these anomalies.
Recent research posted on the online version of the journal Neuroimage (the print version will be available at a later date) shows how the brain reacts to unexpected phenomena. Specifically Parris, Kuhn, Mizon, Benattayallah and Hodgson watched how the brain performed whilst watching various activities including prestidigitaion. Functional Magnetic Resonnace Imaging (fMRI) was used to see what happened. Volunteers watched a coin apparently vanish from a magicians hand (ie magic) and they also watched the coin stay where it was expected to be (ie no magic - the control), they also watched the coin stay where it was expected to be and then slapped out of the persons hand (ie unexpected but not "impossible" / magic). When unexplained events were occuring two areas of the brain were tagged as being active by the fMRI scanner, the dorso lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (not going to be mentioned by again so need to give an abbreviation. The researchers tell us that these regions of the brain are responsible for the detection of conflict and the implementation of cognitive control (ie the start of your brain trying to make senses of it all). The brain is divided into two hemispheres and for the 25 volunteers tested it was found that the response was greater in the left hemisphere, the hemisphere regarded as being the area responsible for logical, sequential, rational, analytical and objective processes. In case you're wondering the right hemisphere is responsible for intuitive and related processes (both bits also do a hell of a lot more but this blog post isn't again brain surgery!). So, the DLPFC is activated more by magic tricks than by surprising events, but when surprising and non surprising events are compared there is no greater activation. So they've found an area of the brain which is activated by disbelief! I'll leave it to you to insert your own jokes about those with over enlarged DLPFC areas, but it is an important part of critical thinking and it is an area we should all listen to, but we should then engage the rest of our brain as well and think about what has happened. Can we process what we have seen to a normal event or is it truly mysterious and Fortean? Look after your brain and use it as often as you can, your life will be enhanced. And to steal from Woody Allen - the brain, my second favourite organ.