“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.” – Jane Austen from Pride and Prejudice
Literary neuroscientist Natalie Phillips travelled to Stanford to see what effect reading Jane Austen had on the brain. The test subjects were of a special sort, PhD candidates in literature.
The question she asked was – what differences can be seen in fMRI activation depending on if readers were asked to read lightly as if they were reading in a bookstore, or more deeply, as if they were studying for an exam.
Well, researchers were blown away by what they saw in terms of the dramatic increase in brain activation that comes with deep attention or reading:
“paying attention to literary texts requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions.” Blood flow also increased during pleasure reading, but in different areas of the brain. Phillips suggested that each style of reading may create distinct patterns in the brain that are “far more complex than just work and play.”
Reading novels deeply, it seems, creates an intensive attention workout for the brain – visualization and scene construction, theory of mind, emotions, and complex analysis.
Premium Subscribers: Read more BELOW. Subscribe HERE if you haven’t already … you’ll also be supporting the dyslexic community! (we’ll share pictures of brain activation, articles, and further discussion of attention, distraction, and complexity of mind). Artist: Tamryn Louise