I read this insane article on the AP wire this morning called “Brain Cells Recognize Famous People.” Apparently a new research study has shown that individual brain cells can respond to pictures of certain celebrities. In one case, the article reports, a single cell was activated by different photos of actress Halle Berry, including some in her “Catwoman” costume, a drawing of her, and even the words “Halle Berry.” The senior investigator of the study, Dr. Itzhak Fried of UCLA, said that the findings appear in a part of the brain that transforms what people perceive into what they'll eventually remember. But he is quick to point out that “there is not only one cell that codes for Jennifer Aniston. That would be impossible.” I wonder how many Jennifer Anniston brain cells I have. Maybe their presence explains why I didn’t care for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” which Kendall and I saw last weekend. This was the movie that introduced Brad Pitt to Angelina Jolie—by all reports a major factor in the collapse of the Pitt-Aniston marriage. Were my Jennifer Aniston brain cells screaming in revolt every time Brad and Angelina appeared on screen in a hot n' heavy clinch (which was every moment when they weren’t trying to brutally murder each other)?
Charles Connor, a brain expert at Johns Hopkins, called the results of the study striking. “Nobody would have predicted that conceptual information relating to Aniston, for example, would be signaled so clearly by single cells.” What’s going on? Are the nation’s leading scientists obsessed with Jennifer Aniston? Are they hiding copies of “Us” magazine under their lab reports?
Apparently the research for this study was conducted by placing electrodes in the brains of eight people with epilepsy so that doctors could track the origins of their seizures. Yikes! The researchers then studied which cells became activated as the participants looked at images on a laptop computer. One participant had a brain cell that reacted to different pictures of Aniston, for example, but was not stimulated by other famous faces. Dr. Fried also noted that when this participant was shown photos of Aniston paired with actor Brad Pitt, from whom the actress later separated, the brain cell didn't respond at all. “I don't know if it was a prophetic thing,” Fried said.
This is an idea worthy of Faye Dunaway’s “Network” program schedule or a Fox reality show: “Tonight at 9, tune in to hear our panel of epileptics weigh in on the impending Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes marriage. Remember, folks, brain seizures do not lie!”
Maybe this explains why I’ve been having such a God-awful week, watching with rising anxiety as my current state of self-judgment and irritability affects everyone around me. I may well be suffering from a Battle Royale between the celebrity brain cells running rampant in my temporal lobes. On Monday night Kendall and I went to the Motion Picture Academy to see a beautifully restored version of “The Heiress.” Olivia de Havilland was absolutely brilliant in the role, but now I’m convinced that I have a brain cell dedicated to her estranged and perpetually jealous sister Joan Fontaine that started its cranial attack as soon as de Havilland made her entrance. What other brain cells are fighting in my head? Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons? Bette Davis and Joan Crawford? Tom Cruise and Brooke Shields?
The study reported that in one participant, the same brain cell responded both to Jennifer Aniston and to Lisa Kudrow. The Johns Hopkins scientist called this “a tantalizing glimpse at how neurons represent concepts like membership in the cast of ‘Friends,’ and could lead to much more extensive studies of how conceptual information is organized in human memory.” Could be. Or maybe Aniston is purposely invading the Kudrow cell because she's so furious. Here she is locked in as this summer's tabloid fodder while Lisa Kudrow is having a great run in her superb new HBO show, “The Comeback.” Whatever's going on in there, it’s clear that my current brain chemistry is fragile enough without these dueling celebrities.
Out, Jennifer! Out!