Reading Changes Your Brain

Concentrating (3460165669)I highly doubt that reading this post will do too much to you, but new research shows that reading novels definitely does change your brain with lingering effects. Carol Clark-Emory reports for Futurity:

After reading a novel, actual changes linger in the brain, at least for a few days, report researchers.

Their findings, that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persist, appear in the journal Brain Connectivity.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

Neurobiological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has begun to identify brain networks associated with reading stories. Most previous studies have focused on the cognitive processes involved in short stories, while subjects are actually reading them as they are in the fMRI scanner.

The study focused on the lingering neural effects of reading a narrative. Twenty-one Emory undergraduates participated in the experiment, which was conducted over 19 consecutive days.

All of the study subjects read the same novel, Pompeii, a 2003 thriller by Robert Harris that is based on the real-life eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy.

“The story follows a protagonist, who is outside the city of Pompeii and notices steam and strange things happening around the volcano,” Berns says. “He tries to get back to Pompeii in time to save the woman he loves. Meanwhile, the volcano continues to bubble and nobody in the city recognizes the signs.”

The researchers chose the book due to its page-turning plot. “It depicts true events in a fictional and dramatic way,” Berns says. “It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative line.”

For the first five days, the participants came in each morning for a base-line fMRI scan of their brains in a resting state. Then they were given nine sections of the novel, about 30 pages each, over a nine-day period. They were asked to read the assigned section in the evening, and come in the following morning…

[continues at Futurity]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

Latest posts by majestic (see all)

7 Comments on "Reading Changes Your Brain"

  1. Breathing happens in airways.

  2. nicholas p. | Dec 28, 2013 at 2:38 am |

    Ya… i wonder what those tests would look like after the group read cum for bigfoot …

  3. AnotherCommentato | Dec 28, 2013 at 5:37 am |

    I have a strange after effect upon reading too many books close together. I end up narrating every action I do inside my head. I know……see a shrink. Strange, but true. It is very odd.

  4. If this is true, what a time for the federal government to be forcing our public schools to implement the increasingly discredited “Common Core”, which explicitly emphasizes less reading of novels and more reading of non-fiction for all students, from K – 12.

    This is yet another reason for rejecting this radical—yet completely untested—change in the education of our children.

    • Noah_Nine | Feb 24, 2014 at 12:11 am |

      The education system is just stomping the living imagination out of these poor children aren’t they? first music gets cut, then art, and now no more novels? What’s the reason for this trend?
      I feel we could actually do with less of a focus on sports in school. When I attended HS, Art and English/Journalism were the only reason I even showed up, without those courses I probably would have dropped out. I feel sorry for young creatives that are stuck going to american schools these days.
      This is why we are falling behind in science in this country. Art and music classes encourage creative problem solving, which is a necessity for scientific innovation.

  5. Regina Freitag | Dec 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm |

    one strange effect reading has on me is that I won’t get all my housework done, while slouching on the couch. 🙂 But I love it.

  6. Noah_Nine | Feb 24, 2014 at 12:05 am |

    I’ve had room-mates that considered my reading to be a waste of time on par with watching television…. “Why don’t you do something constructive?” they’d say. Fools!

Comments are closed.