What kind of reading makes you smarter?
Reading books, in general, makes us smarter, in my opinion.
However, there is now scientific evidence that reading fiction has a particularly beneficial effect on our brain function. Emory University neuroscientists published a study in the Brain Connectivity Journal to back up their claims, titled Short and Long Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.
What is the biggest takeaway from the study
Reading fiction books improves all brain connectivity.
The novel Pompeii by Robert Harris, which is based on the real-life eruption of Mount Vesuvius, was given to students who participated in the study. Here's how the research went down. Students were instructed to read one chapter (about 30 pages) per day. The experiment lasted nine days in a row. Students had fMRI brain scans done before and after the reading sessions to monitor brain activity in both active and resting states..
The study's findings revealed the following:
There was an increase in activity in the left temporal cortex, which is associated with language learning. There was also increased activity in the brain's central sulcus, which is a fold in the cerebral cortex that separates the parietal lobe from the frontal lobe and separates the sensory and motor areas.
What do these results mean in plain English?
Reading a novel improves our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of another person (the main or other characters in the novel), which is similar to assuming another identity and exploring what it might be like to interact with the entire cast of characters, experience a range of different emotions, and even make decisions as that person.
When we read, we perceive the body sensations of others by using a technique similar to visualization called "mirroring." For example, if the protagonist in the novel is running, just thinking about it will activate our own neural networks associated with actual running, allowing us to "experience" the physical act. Consider how powerful this technique can be if you apply it to your own life!
The study's most important takeaway is to read FICTION. This is especially true for novels, where we can immerse ourselves in the story and bond with the characters and plot in order to improve brain function. While short stories are fiction as well, their length may not allow for enough time for bonding to occur. Also, the effect cannot be achieved in the same way when we read nonfiction, such as history or science books, because the goal of nonfiction is more to gather facts than to identify with others..
What are implications for the brain in the long term?
Students' brains were active even when they were not reading. Scientists refer to this as "shadow activity," and it is similar to muscle memory in the brain. Muscle memory allows us to master a difficult task by repeating it and practicing it until it becomes second nature. In other words, muscles "remember" how to act in a certain way that, over time, does not necessitate as much strain as it did initially.
The enhancement in brain function was not limited to the experiment period. This is possibly the most fascinating aspect of the research. A boost in brain connectivity persisted — neural changes remained active for days after the reading assignment was completed, implying that we can reap similar benefits while studying, working, learning a new skill, or problem-solving.
How can you incorporate reading fiction into your daily life?
Make it a mini-habit. Instead of thinking that you have to save up money to start buying a lot of books, remember that reading is free; simply get a library membership. Download the Goodreads app to look for book recommendations, reviews, and plot summaries to help you choose a novel.
Make reading a pleasurable ritual. That way, you'll begin to look forward to it. Setting aside 30 minutes to an hour each evening to find a comfortable seat in your home, listen to relaxing music, and make yourself a cup of hot chocolate or caffeine can help. -Tea without caffeine