A Gripping Novel Can Rewire Your Brain

Know how a good book sticks with you even once you put it down? Turns out, there’s a scientific explanation for that.

A study (pdf warning) published in Brain Connectivity has found that reading a novel with a strong narrative structure can rewire your brain, and the effect can last several days. Researchers had nineteen participants scanned by functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) each morning for five days. Then, over the next nine days, participants read Pompeii, a thriller by Robert Harris, that is based on the historical eruption of Vesuvius and destruction of Pompeii. The participants were given the novel in sections (about thirty pages each), so that they’d get scanned in the morning and then go home and read their section. After the nine days, the participants did five final days of scans.

Results showed a heightened level of connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain thought to be associated with language, and the central sulcus, the sensory motor region of the brain. It is also associated with tricking the brain into experiencing something that isn’t happening. Interesting, the changes continued after the participants finished the novel, well into the additional five days of brain scanning.

So, in case you’re thinking of doing some mental upkeep, we have a few suggestions for you.

Photo courtesy of Travis Nep Smith

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