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Books Help Improve Brain Functions for Days

By Camille H / Dec 31, 2013 12:56 AM EST

Tags : books, help, improve, brain, functions, days

  • Books Help Improve Brain Functions for Days
  • (Photo : Ian Wilson/Flickr) Books Help Improve Brain Functions for Days

Books are known to be beneficial for the brain but a recent study further claims that it can actually change one's life.

Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia used fMRI scanners to identify brain networks associated with reading stories and found that changes in the brain linger for a few days after reading a powerful fictional novel. The researchers said "reading a novel can cause changes in the 'resting-state' of the brain, which can last for days. "tories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person," said Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and director of the university's Center of Neuropolicy. "We want to understand how stories get into your brain and what they do to it."

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Their study, published in the journal Brain Connectivity, was based on previous research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brain networks involved with the reading of stories. A total of 12 students participated in the experiment, which was conducted within a span of 19 consecutive days and saw them reading the same novel - Pompeii, a thriller by Robert Harris and is based on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy.

"It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative line," said Professor Berns. He added: "Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity. We call that a "shadow activity", almost like a muscle memory. 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." 


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