“Reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” says neuroscientist, Professor Gregory Berns.
Those of us who have ever read a book will probably agree that once the last page has been turned, we’re elevated to the protagonist’s state of mind and mannerisms. I, for one, would often muse over Holden Caulfield’s cognizant and amusingly acerbic temperament from Catcher in the Rye.
I endeavored to scrutinize the world around me from Holden’s perspective. Similarly, I felt like an altered person altogether after reading The Kite Runner. I was so moved by the mistakes and consequences incurred by the protagonist, Amer, that I made a concerted effort to avoid his oversights.
This happening makes sense. The human mind which is often compared to a computer operating system - is constantly receiving, conceiving and processing information. So, it should come as no surprise that reading a book leaves an indelible mark on the memory. However, now even research appears to prove that reading can trigger quantifiable changes in your brain.
Emory University recently published a study in Brain Connectivity which finds that reading a novel can trigger observable changes which last in the brain for the next few days. Researchers of the study sought to determine whether reading a book could cause changes in the brain and exactly how long they would last.
The study implemented 21 students took part. Each participant read the same book Pompeii by Robert Harris.
Over the course of 19 days, the students read a bit of the book in the evening, and then had fMRI scans the next morning. Their brains were scanned for five days after finishing the book.
The study found that neurological changes continued throughout all five days. According to researchers, this proves that reading doesn’t only enjoy an instantaneous reaction but also a long-term one.
Lead author of the study, neuroscientist Gregory Burns said “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”
“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,”
I couldn’t be any more excited.