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Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:16 PM

Brain function 'boosted for days after reading a novel'

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/brain-function-boosted-for-days-after-reading-a-novel-9028302.html

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.

Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition - for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

“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.

“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.”

28 replies, 2839 views

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Arrow 28 replies Author Time Post
Reply Brain function 'boosted for days after reading a novel' (Original post)
RainDog Dec 2013 OP
Uncle Joe Dec 2013 #1
RainDog Dec 2013 #2
Uncle Joe Dec 2013 #3
RainDog Dec 2013 #4
stage left Dec 2013 #5
thelordofhell Dec 2013 #6
Oscarmonster13 Dec 2013 #8
RainDog Dec 2013 #9
Oscarmonster13 Dec 2013 #7
RainDog Dec 2013 #10
Control-Z Dec 2013 #21
Baitball Blogger Dec 2013 #11
JDPriestly Dec 2013 #12
malthaussen Dec 2013 #13
Curmudgeoness Dec 2013 #14
Bernardo de La Paz Dec 2013 #15
RainDog Dec 2013 #25
Curmudgeoness Dec 2013 #16
RainDog Dec 2013 #22
DetlefK Dec 2013 #17
llmart Dec 2013 #18
ErikJ Dec 2013 #19
bvar22 Dec 2013 #20
Scuba Dec 2013 #23
RainDog Dec 2013 #24
Bernardo de La Paz Dec 2013 #26
RainDog Dec 2013 #27
Bill USA Dec 2013 #28

Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:22 PM

1. Kicked and recommended.

Thanks for the thread, RainDog.

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Response to Uncle Joe (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:23 PM

2. ...

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Response to RainDog (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:24 PM

3. ..

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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Response to Uncle Joe (Reply #3)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:32 PM

4. You too! n/t

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:34 PM

5. Kicked and Reccomended.

That's amazing.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:43 PM

6. In related news

Sitting in your underwear reading internet posts makes you dumb as a stump..........

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Response to thelordofhell (Reply #6)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:50 PM

8. *snort*

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Response to thelordofhell (Reply #6)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:51 PM

9. absolutely

I insist on full formal evening wear when I read online.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:49 PM

7. very cool

Now it makes sense that when reading a really intense book or getting emotionally involved in a 'world' how we can feel so drained or attached to it for lingering time. I call it a "book hangover"

Great article! definitely sharing!

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Response to Oscarmonster13 (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 02:53 PM

10. it's a small sample size

but studies on imagination are interesting to me.

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Response to Oscarmonster13 (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 10:09 PM

21. Book hangover. Ha!

I've never tried to give it a name - though I've suffered it my entire life. Book hangover. Perfect! It just says it all.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 03:07 PM

11. Now we understand the mechanics behind that phenomenon known as

the Twihard Era.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:02 PM

12. Whoopee! Best news in a long time. Now I have an excuse . . . . .

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:12 PM

13. I shudder to think what reading 50 Shades of Gray does to brain function... n/t

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #13)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:19 PM

14. LOL. One can only imagine! nt

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:22 PM

15. Hot media like radio & fiction involve the mind, unlike cool media like TV

McLuhan knew what was going on 60 years ago.

TV is bubblegum for the eyes.

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Response to Bernardo de La Paz (Reply #15)

Mon Dec 30, 2013, 03:27 PM

25. He was really perceptive

I just dip my toe in those waters. I don't swim in them.

But I think his views of the form, rather than content are interesting if you look at things like the rise of the printing press, but it's hard to see that moment outside of other events taking place at the same time. The printing press as the means to create a "peer-review" enlightenment culture seems pretty clear - an arrow of time from the Renaissance to the 1700s. And that created a culture of "production" rather than reproduction for some writers and readers - when prior, those who were literate reproduced a limited repertoire of work for limited purposes among a limited population.

And, as far as media - troubadours were more important than books when the overwhelming majority were illiterate and lacked the means to travel. It's interesting to think of singing as a form of mass communication in the past that's now overwhelmingly just an entertainment.

And he had some interesting things to say about the predominant emotion of the era of the global village as "terror." Everything horrible is there to see all the time. People become consumers of terror, or fear.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:25 PM

16. You should cross-post this to the fiction group.

Everyone there loves even more excuses to read.

This is very interesting. I always knew that I could feel as if I was living the story, but to think that my brain is actually responding to the story in a physical sense blows me away.

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #16)

Mon Dec 30, 2013, 12:30 AM

22. would you do it? thanks n/t

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:34 PM

17. I read a shit-ton of sci-fi novels as a kid and now I'm a scientist.

But this still begs the question: Is correlation causation?

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:46 PM

18. Good news for me......

since I read one book after another and have all my life. I think there was a time when my children were small that I couldn't read quite so many books, but I'm a book junkie - both fiction and nonfiction and I get withdrawal symptoms if I don't have a book on hand as I'm finishing my last one.

But then I've worked in libraries for ten years and have had books at my fingertips daily.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 04:53 PM

19. Works on dogs too.

"for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running".

When I scratch him near the back he starts kicking his leg as if he's trying to scratch it.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sun Dec 29, 2013, 05:11 PM

20. Does anyone believe that the same happens with TV or Movies?

The article doesn't mention anything about that,
but I suspect that it doesn't.
TV and Movies are passive,
while reading requires the active use of the imagination
and the ability of the brain to visualize the scene.


My Wife & I love good novels, classics, best sellers, pulp fiction, science fiction,....
We couldn't live our here in The Woods without them.

DURec for READING.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2013, 12:36 PM

23. More, from Scientific American ...

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy




Groucho Marx said something to the effect that television is very educational. Everytime someone turned it on he read a book.

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Response to Scuba (Reply #23)

Mon Dec 30, 2013, 03:13 PM

24. That one is interesting

It talks about specific sorts of reading.

When study participants read non-fiction or nothing, their results were unimpressive. When they read excerpts of genre fiction, such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother, their test results were dually insignificant. However, when they read literary fiction, such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, their test results improved markedly—and, by implication, so did their capacity for empathy. The study was published October 4 in Science.

The results are consistent with what literary criticism has to say about the two genres—and indeed, this may be the first empirical evidence linking literary and psychological theories of fiction. Popular fiction tends to portray situations that are otherworldly and follow a formula to take readers on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and exciting experiences. Although the settings and situations are grand, the characters are internally consistent and predictable, which tends to affirm the reader’s expectations of others. It stands to reason that popular fiction does not expand the capacity to empathize.

Literary fiction, by contrast, focuses more on the psychology of characters and their relationships. “Often those characters’ minds are depicted vaguely, without many details, and we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations,” Kidd says. This genre prompts the reader to imagine the characters’ introspective dialogues. This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom. Although literary fiction tends to be more realistic than popular fiction, the characters disrupt reader expectations, undermining prejudices and stereotypes. They support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #24)

Mon Dec 30, 2013, 06:28 PM

26. I'm guessing that when they say "genre fiction" they mean

I'm guessing that when they say "genre fiction" they mean popular romance and thrillers and comedic novels.

I think that the two genres of mystery and science fiction (speculative fiction) engage the brain every bit as much as literary fiction, even though typically they don't focus on empathic literary character development. They both require considerable imagination. They both expose their scenarios vaguely initially with few details and force the reader to fill in many gaps. A mystery reader has to imagine motivations and modus operandi from few clues that get filled in gradually and in seemingly unrelated ways. In science fiction, the reader has to imagine many unusual developments of modern society and technology that have varying degrees of plausibility and multiple ramifications. Alternatively, it might be about an alien culture that has developed in ways as a result of differences in physiology or environment. Or a number of other imaginative settings and scenarios.

I know that when I finish reading one of the short stories or novellas in "The Years Best Science Fiction" series, edited annually by Gardner Dozois, I feel as if my head has physically expanded because I have been stretching my mind so much. I can't recommend that series of books highly enough. Now in its 30th year.

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Response to Bernardo de La Paz (Reply #26)

Mon Dec 30, 2013, 07:36 PM

27. I think the particular writer in a genre would matter

Martin Amis isn't considered a sci-fi or speculative writer but Time's Arrow was great "sci-fi" or whatever it might be called. Or Haruki Murakami's weird worlds.

What the article seems to say is that "stock" or "stereotypical" characters whose inner lives are not that complicated don't achieve the same result.

I like mystery or crime as a genre, but don't read a lot of writers because the characters are so... by the numbers. But a lot of them aren't.

There's something called "restorative three-act drama" that allows all hell to break loose in the second act, after establishing who is who. By the third act and denouement, everyone is either rewarded or punished based upon their actions in a way that would be considered "just" according to the standards of the Victorian era, where this really became from. As mass entertainment, that was considered "decent." Instructive. "All is right on heaven and earth."

Movies (one of MM's "hot" media - or overwhelming one sense) have pretty much been predicated on this formula ever since - and it's also the formula for genre fiction (which may be one reason genre fiction is more often filmed - but another big reason is that fiction that explores psychological states has more problems because the visual is not necessarily primary for the story.)

Anyway, my guess would be that anyone who writes outside of the expectation for a psychological and social stereotype of a main character (not hero, etc.) would have the same impact on empathy. It's having to see the world through others' eyes and having stories that don't always adhere to happily ever after, so you don't know if a story will end that way until you read it.

It would be interesting to see someone's brain scan who watched "Memento" for the first time - and then, because of this global village, could watch it in chronological order. I would bet the mind is just as engaged as in reading any book.

(I just mention that because I had seen Memento long ago, loved it, and recently watched in chronological order and was amazed at how well the story was constructed.)

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Dec 30, 2013, 08:18 PM

28. I guess reading nonfiction doesn't have this effect? ...great, just my luck.

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