Reading and Brain Patterns
Reading a book –and paying close attention to it--changes the amount of blood flowing to the brain, a new study has found.
Researchers at Stanford University experimented with administering an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) procedure to subjects as they read a Jane Austen novel.
The participants, told to give a close reading of a passage from “Mansfield Park,” showed an increase in blood flow to various parts of the brain. They were also asked to merely skim the same passage, but in that case the blood flow went to different parts of the brain.
Project leader Natalie Phillips, a literary scholar, said that the increase in blood flow during close reading indicated that "paying attention to literary texts requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions."
Phillips, formerly of Stanford but now an assistant professor of English at Michigan State University, said in a statement that the study is “one of the first…experiments to show how our brain responds to literature.”
The research shows, she said, that "it's not only what we read – but thinking rigorously about it that's of value, and that literary study provides a truly valuable exercise of people's brains."