Your brain has a biological response to a good book
New research reveals that reading a novel can 'trick' your brain and 'transport you into the body of the protagonist.'
Fri, Jan 03, 2014 at 08:45 AM
Getting wrapped up in a good novel actually causes changes in your brain that can last for at least five days, according to new research.
Emory University scientists found that reading an absorbing book results in heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, a region of the brain linked to language and sensory motor skills.
Neurons in this area of the brain are associated into tricking the mind into thinking the body is doing something it's not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition.
"The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist," neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study, told The Independent.
"We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically."
Twenty-one students participated in the study by reading a portion of the same book in the evening and then having an fMRI scan the next morning. (Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, measures brain activity by detecting the changes in blood oxygenation and flow that occur in response to neural activity.)
Robert Harris’ bestselling 2003 thriller "Pompeii" was chosen for the study because of its fast-paced plot.
Once the students had finished the book, their brains were scanned for the next five days.
Berns found that the neurological changes in participants' brains lasted for five days after finishing the book, persisting in a similar way to muscle memory.
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