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Apple creates religious ecstacy in fanboy brains

Brain boffins have discovered that just looking at Apple hardware can make Cupertino Cult members experience the kind of euphoria normally reserved for the highly religious.

We've suspected for some time now that Macolytes worship their messiah, Steve Jobs, at those temples of fruity consumerism the High Street Apple Store, but now a light-hearted BBC documentary has gathered scientific proof of the divine ecstasy experienced by Apple fanboys and girls.

The first episode of Secrets of the Superbrands (iPlayer link) investigates technology in general, and has a pop at Microsoft, Facebook and Google on the way, but reserves its most eye-opening revelations for Apple.

After attending the opening of the distinctly ecclesiastic Apple Store in London's Covent Garden the programme's presenter Alex Riley comes to the conclusion that Apple events closely resemble the kind of happy-clappy, whoopin' and a-hollerin' church services much loved in the evangelical southern states of the USA.

It's a kind of mass hysteria which no other brand elicits. We don't care how sweaty and ebullient Steve Ballmer gets as he does his best to whip a Microsoft audience into a waking state, let alone a frenzy, no other company has fans quite like Apple's. As Riley wryly remarks, as a gang of blue-shirted Apple drones high-five complete strangers who have queued in the crappy English weather for days on end in order to get into a shop, "I've never seen this sort of thing happen at PC World."

Self-confessed Luddite and Nokia 6030 owner Riley is, in fact, so bemused by the behaviour of the assembled Mac addicts and iPhone-aholics that he remarks: "These people need their heads examining," which is exactly what he does.

Tracking down a man who just has to be the UK's biggest Apple Geek, Apple fan blog editor Alex Brooks, a man who openly confesses to "thinking about Apple 24 hours a day", Riley heads off to the Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences where boffins bung Brooks and his Mac-befuddled brain into an MRI scanner.

The blogger is bombarded with pictures of Apple toys and equally shiny not-Apple toys in order to compare the two sets of brain scans.

"There's much more activity in the visual cortex, an enhanced visual attention to the Apple products. We often see this when people are very loyal to a brand," says the brain boffin.

Similar tests conducted on highly religious people – showing them religious and non-religious imagery – resulted in identical patterns of activity.

“The Apple products are triggering the same bits of his brain as religious imagery triggers in a person of faith," remarked the neuroscientist.

The programme then goes on to suggest that the workings of a fanboy's brain is not the only parity between Apple evangelism and religious faith.

Apple had a messianic leader in the form of Steve Jobs, who was 'reborn' during the nineties when he returned to the Cupertino fold after being ousted by an invading nemesis, and the company had its own version of the Antichrist in the form of Microsoft's Bill Gates and his evil IBM overlords.

So the next time you watch a Steve Jobs keynote and think you'd really like to take an ice-pick to the spinal cord of the next person who shouts 'wooooooo' at the top of his voice... show a bit of sympathy. They can't help it.

It's iRapture.