A million-dollar question

Submitted photoJell-O is tested for brain waves in a 1993 photo taken at the Strong Museum.

LE ROY — This was the million-dollar question last week on an episode of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”: When scientists tested it with an electroencephalogram, which of these food items produced readings similar to a human brain?

Contestant Anderson Cooper had four choices: Wint-O-Green Life Saver, SPAM, Lime Jell-O and Jet-Puffed Marshmallow.

After using the “phone a friend” lifeline, Cooper chose SPAM.

He was wrong.

The correct answer, as anyone in Le Roy could probably tell you, is Lime Jell-O.

Lynne Belluscio, director of Le Roy House and the Jell-O Gallery Museum, said when putting together the story of Jell-O, she came across a letter published in the University of Rochester newsletter. It talked about Dr. Adriane Upton who in 1969 tested Jell-O for brainwaves. The electrodes were placed on the gelatin in places corresponding to sites on the scalps of human patients. The “brain waves” recorded from the blob of Jell-O were identical in microvoltage, frequency and amplitude to those of healthy men and women, according to the Jell-O Gallery Museum exhibit.

“The reason Dr. Upton tested Jell-O — he did it first in England — and he was lecturing to a class saying that you cannot declare someone legally dead by using an EEG machine testing for brainwaves because even a bowl of Jell-O will produce the same frequency of brainwaves as the human brain,” Belluscio said. “What it is, it absorbs the frequency of machinery and lights or even electrical outlets that are in the room.”

Upton’s experiment was replicated in 1993 by the Strong Museum for an exhibition about Jell-O. The results of that experiment were printed out and are now on exhibit at the Jell-O Museum.

On March 17, 1993, technicians at St. Jerome Hospital in Batavia conducted a similar experiment and confirmed that brain waves emitted from a bowl of Jell-O are similar in frequency to a human.

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