The reader’s brain

readingThere are more and more advertising campaigns to promote reading, and all of them relate to culture. Yes, it is true, reading enriches knowledge, is food for the mind, and makes us grow. But there’s more.

For decades researchers have worked to discover the effects of reading on the brain and, with the evolution of neuroscience and instrumentation designed to document brain activity, the results have been amazing. A study published last year on brain connectivity shows that reading a novel can implement brain connectivity. The effects were detected by fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and persisted for several days after the end of the reading. Reading can therefore lead to biological effects, not just “thinking.”

These, and other positive effects, however, are obtainable only with novels written to engage the readers, enabling them to identify with some character through empathy, also strengthening the ability to correctly attribute mental states to others and to recognize that others have mental states different from our own. It is not an innate ability; the child develops it between the age of 4 and 9. Moreover, these effects are not obtainable through theatrical or motion picture performances

Hence, the science shows that a good novel can change the brain, with all the implications that this entails, especially a growing brain or that of an elderly person, where the synapses are dying. Regarding the aging brain, reading has been shown to greatly contribute to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Need more reasons to read a good novel?