Study: Novels exercise brain “muscles” for attentive readers

The Los Angeles Times “Jacket Copy” blog reported that researchers at Emory University have determined that reading a novel “causes measurable physical changes in the brain that can be detected up to five days after the reader closes the book.”

The study, which appears in a paper for the journal Brain Connectivity, compared the effect to “muscle memory.” The 21 undergraduate students participating in the study were asked to read 30-page sections of a plot-driven novel at night and had their brains scanned the following morning.

Forbes reports that the functional magnetic resonance imaging scans revealed that compared to the days where the participants didn’t read the novel, the researchers “identified three independent networks that had significant increases in connectivity,” with two of these networks involving brain “regions previously associated with perspective taking and story comprehension.”

Both networks showed “a decay in connectivity” after the participants had finished the novel.

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