This post is based on an article in BRAIN CONNECTIVITY, Volume 3, Number 6,
DOI: 10.1089/brain.2013.0166 titled “Short and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.”
This study used fMRI recording resting states both before and after reading a novel. The novel was “Pompeii: A Novel” by Robert Fawcett. Nineteen participants read this novel over a nine day period. Resting-state networks (RSNs) were assessed before and after reading on each of the nine days. Baseline RSNs were taken five days before the experiment proper and for 5 days after the conclusion of the novel.
On the days after the reading, significant increases in connectivity were centered on hubs in the left angular/supramarginal gyri and right posterior temporal gyri. These hubs correspond to regions previously associated with perspective taking and story comprehension, and the changes exhibited a time course that decayed rapidly after the completion of the novel. Long-term changes in connectivity, which persisted for several days after the reading, were observed in the bilateral somatosensory cortex, suggesting a potential mechanism for “embodied semantics.” What the authors are referring to in embodied semantics is that the body is responding emotionally to the reading.
What HM finds most interesting about this study is that it provides data showing the
changes that take place in the brain as the result of reading. This can be regarded as “cognitive exercise” that activates brain circuits and System 2 processing building a cognitive reserve decreasing the likelihood of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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