Reading a Novel Boosts Brain Function For Days

Remember that last book you read?  The one that you couldn't put down and ended up finishing in a few days?  It turns out that it actually does much more good for your brain than you knew. According to research done at Emory University here in the US, a good and gripping book may cause "heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory."  The changes the researchers registered were found in the left temporal cortex which is associated with language and it is also the primary sensory motor region of the brain. This region of the brain has long been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something that it actually isn't, what's known as grounded cognition. According to Professor Gregory Burns, the lead researcher of the study, “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.” The students who took part in the study, after finishing the 2003 book Pompeii by Robert Harris, had MRIs taken and it was found that the neurological changes that were seen while reading the novel were also present five days after reading the book.  The neurological changes mimic muscle memory in a way and when metabolism continues to run at higher levels after a workout. So although grounded cognition doesn't actually simulate the experience, such as running or swimming, it does start activating the neurons that would be activated during the activity.  In other words, imagination is a great and valuable tool and although reading doesn't produce the same experiences it can come close. So what's the next book on the list?  

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