Friday, January 17, 2014

Fiction Friday: this shit changes you!

Hey, well, it's been a looong time since I've thrown up a Fiction Friday (pun intended). But I read something the other day, about fiction, that I found pretty amazing....

Neuroscience research finds that reading fiction can boost brain function. Reading fiction that resonates with you can actually cause changes in the brain that persist, at least for a couple of days. And maybe longer.

A study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (this is not Fox News evidence, people) found that participants "showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, on the mornings following the reading assignments."

I mean, how many times over your academic career did your teachers and professors tell you that reading will make you a better writer? That it will improve your overall language performance? Well they weren't just bullshitting you!

The other, more surprising finding, at least for me, was that there were changes in the central sulcus of the brain, which is the primary sensory motor region of the brain. Movement? Say what?

The authors state, "Neurons of this region have been associated with making representations of sensation for the body, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition. Just thinking about running, for instance, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running."

Although this sounds like something a social scientist would write, the neuroscientists go on to say that "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. ...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."

Wow. That is so cool, and I can definitely relate. And the fact these changes last "at least a few days" really resonates too. Some reads don't go away for a while, right? You know what I'm talking about, where you find yourself thinking about Lily Owens' world of bees and honey and the Black Madonna, or Antonio Marez and Ultima in New Mexico, the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic,Vianne Rocher in Paris, or Lisbeth Salander is Sweden straight into the next week, and sometimes a lot longer than that. These characters, and others, definitely worm their way into your mind, into your reality, and I guess, when you think of it that way, it's kind of obvious that they've (they story itself has) changed  your brain?

I've actually had a hard time with fiction lately, only memoirs and nonfiction, if that, have been able to capture my attention, but this new information may just be the nudge I need to boost my brain function via a well told story...

If interested, you can read the Emory Health Science new release here:


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Yes! Fiction changes my brain. I *knew* it. But now I really know it.

I love when a vague knowledge is corroborated by neuroscientists. Now it's fact. My brain *does* change when I read fiction; of course it does.

Thank you, Beth. I love this.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go join the gold diggers in 1860s New Zealand. In my brain.


Pat said...

Cool...I am sending the article along to both my bookclubs!
Love, MOM

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Very cool, and makes good sense. My favorite part is that thinking about running is just as good as running. I'm totally using that.


Beth said...

Ha, good idea, Jacquie.

Although I think it's just as good as running for/in your mind, not necessarily for your ass! ;)