Friday, September 14, 2012

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON JANE AUSTEN

It is an indisputable fact that reading makes you smarter.  Researchers at Stanford University are now observing people's brain patterns while they are reading books by our beloved Jane Austen! The MRI images suggest that literary reading provides "a truly valuable exercise of people's brains".  No kidding :) 

Researcher Natalie Phillips positions an eye-tracking device on Matt Langione.

The researchers discovered that the blood flow in the brain increases during leisurely reading, but in different areas of the brain than when reading the novel more closely.

After reviewing early scans, neuroscientist Bob Dougherty, research director of CNI, said he was impressed by "how the right patterns of ink on a page can create vivid mental imagery and instill powerful emotions." Doherty was also surprised to see how "a simple request to the participants to change their literary attention can have such a big impact on the pattern of activity during reading."

The researchers expected to see pleasure centers activating for the relaxed reading and hypothesized that close reading, as a form of heightened attention, would create more neural activity than pleasure reading. If the ongoing analysis continues to support the initial theory, Phillips said, teaching close reading (i.e., attention to literary form) "could serve – quite literally – as a kind of cognitive training, teaching us to modulate our concentration and use new brain regions as we move flexibly between modes of focus."

With the field of literary neuroscience in its infancy, Phillips said this project is helping to demonstrate the potential that neuroscientific tools have to "give us a bigger, richer picture of how our minds engage with art – or, in our case, of the complex experience we know as literary reading."

See the complete article of the Stanford University News here.

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