Reading a novel can change your brain

A book can change a life. And, according to a new study, it may actually also change your brain. Research from Emory University in Atlanta concludes that reading a novel can affect areas of the brain linked to language and body sensation.

Published in Brain Connectivity, the study enlisted 21 undergraduates to read a 2003 thriller by Robert Harris titled Pompeii, based on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy.

Over the course of 19 days, researchers analyzed the novel’s impact on participants. First, students underwent fMRI brain scans while in a resting state for five days. Then, participants were instructed to read specific parts of the novel and take a quiz the next morning followed by a fMRI scan during a resting state. This part of the study lasted for nine days. After finishing the book, students again underwent brain scans for five additional days while in a resting state.

The brain scans showed that the mornings after reading, there was an increase in connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptiveness for language. Another area of the brain with an increase in connectivity was the central sulcus, a sensory motor region of the brain responsible for sensations of the body. The researchers believe this shows that a person reading a book can actually place themselves in the shoes of people in a narrative story. Since these changes were apparent in the study subjects days after reading, it suggets that the impact of a book can stay with people.

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