by Witold Fitz-SimonResearchers at Emory University in Atlanta recently released a studythat showed that reading a book can increase connectivity in the brain for at least five days. Twenty-one graduates from the university were given sections of a novel to read over a nine day period, receiving fMRI scans before and after reading. Heightened connectivity that remained even after reading was found in two regions of the brain:
Unsurprisingly, the left temporal lobe houses the primary auditory cortex which is associated with language and meaning. It makes sense that reading would stimulate language centers of the brain. Less obvious, perhaps, is the stimulation of the somatosensory cortex, an area which takes information from various sources—such as sensitivity to pain, sensitivity to temperature, and proprioceptive information—and combines them into what we think of as the the sense of touch.
From the study:
“One possibility for increases in somatosensory cortex connectivity is that reading a novel invokes neural activity that is associated with bodily sensations. This is called the theory of “embodied semantics”… Somatosensory cortex activation has been previously demonstrated by the reading of metaphors, especially if they are tactile metaphors… It is plausible that the act of reading a novel places the reader in the body of the protagonist, which may alter somatosensory and motor cortex connectivity.”
Science-fiction and fantasy are genres of literature that take us out of our bodies into new and magical landscapes. Perhaps we could create a new type of literature that takes us into our bodies and changes our use.
Have you ever had the experience of being physically transformed in any way by something you’ve read? Perhaps you had the feeling that a piece of literature unlocked something inside you that helped you relate to the world differently. Let us know in the comments of your favorite transformative works.
WITOLD FITZ-SIMON has been a student of the Alexander Technique since 2007. He is certified to teach the Technique as a graduate of the American Center for the Alexander Technique’s 1,600-hour, three year training program. A student of yoga since 1993 and a teacher of yoga since 2000, Witold combines his extensive knowledge of the body and its use into intelligent and practical instruction designed to help his students free themselves of ineffective and damaging habits of body, mind and being. www.mindbodyandbeing.com