Updated: Jul 26, 2021
While it is improbable that any would argue that reading is harmful to you, we now understand a bit more about why reading is beneficial. Emory University- located across the street from Atlanta- recently published research demonstrating that reading books increases brain activity. Additionally, the enhanced connection may last for many days after you stop reading.
"Stories influence our lives and, in some instances, help define individuals, "neuroscientist Gregory Berns, director of Emory's Center for Neuropolicy and the study's main author, told Emory's eScienceCommons. "We want to know how narratives enter your brain and what effect they have."
Most of us are aware of how a good book can take us to another world and influence our imagination, attitude, and perspective. However, it's intriguing to see research showing that physical changes are occurring in the brain.
"As if it were muscle memory."
The research read the 2003 Robert Harris book "Pompeii" to 21 Emory undergraduate students and utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to uncover brain networks linked with reading. Unlike earlier studies that examined brain activity as people read, this one examined brain scans the morning after a scheduled nighttime reading session.
"Even though the participants were not reading the book while in the scanner, they maintained this enhanced connectivity," Berns said. "We refer to this as shadow activity,'' which is similar to muscle memory."
Berns further said that although the research did not specify the duration of these brain alterations, they may persist at least five days. Additionally, he states that if similar changes are seen in individuals given a random book, your favorite novels may have a more significant and longer-lasting impact on your brain's biochemistry.
Therefore, if someone ever asks you why reading is beneficial, you are not required to recount the narrative of a book that transformed your life. You can explain how books affect the mind scientifically.