Read a Good Book (or two) in 2014

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photo from The Independent

Hello all and happy new year! Have you all gotten used to writing 14 in the date yet because I’m not sure I have. Also I hope everyone is keeping warm with all this snow the North East is having.

Last week there was an article floating around Facebook that peaked my interest having to do with brain changes and reading novels. It sounds nerdy and academic but as a former English major and Psychology minor I was interested in what it had to say. (Here is another article that goes into a little more detail about the experiment.)

Researchers at Emory University tested the effect reading a novel can have on the brain. They gave a group of 20 students a gripping book to read that was fast paced and plot driven and then took an fMRI of their brains after finishing certain sections of the novel.

They found that reading a book develops the area of the brain that deals with language comprehension in the left temporal cortex. This makes sense – reading a book helps with language comprehension and development. The interesting part of the article, I thought, was that reading a novel also stimulated the primary sensory motor cortex that deals with physical motion and sensation in the body. Each part of the cortex is devoted to a different body part and its sensory/motor functions, and these areas of the brain can be triggered by physical movement or thinking about a particular sensation or movement.

The scientists conducting this expedient suggest that the stimulation of the primary sensory motor context has to do with a reader relating to a protagonist and putting themselves in their shoes. One scientist told The Independent,

“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,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

What’s more was that the scientists found that these changes in the brain stayed for days after finishing the novel. It was a fairly small study, but I thought the results were pretty interesting.

I have noticed that I haven’t been reading for as long periods as I normally do. I have a good book going (I’ve moved on to rereading The Two Towers now). I get distracted easily by television, the internet, Netflix, work, anything really. But I do want to carve out more reading time for myself on the weekends or at night where I just sit down with a good book for however long to stimulate my primary sensory motor cortex. And of course to unwind and read a good book. That and work on my story some more. Any goals, literary or otherwise, that you have for 2014?

I also wouldn’t mind reading on that beach. The weather in New York right now is slightly colder than it is there…

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2 thoughts on “Read a Good Book (or two) in 2014

  1. The part about the primary sensory motor cortex is highly fascinating. It’s just more proof of how powerful books are 🙂

    Kudos to you for reading The Lord of the Rings (and RE-reading it, nonetheless!) It truly is a masterpiece of literature.

    I too hope to do some more reading this year. I am currently reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It’s funny, because recently I picked up a book after a long period of barely reading, and I was wowed by how wonderful it made me feel. Then I scolded myself, “See? You love reading. Reading makes you feel good. So why don’t you do it more often?”

    Hope your reading endeavors are successful ^_^

  2. That’s fascinating! It explains why some books have a bigger impact than others. Thanks for sharing the articles. 🙂

    Good luck with claiming back more time for reading and writing- it can be tough to find moments to step back from everything and get lost in a book.

    Hope you get to spend some time on a sunny beach with an amazing book… or maybe a few more. 🙂

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