The effects of reading on your brain

Reading is an activity that can be fun and informative. Becoming engrossed in a world full of wonder and fantasy is a great way to relax and simultaneously expand your knowledge of the world. Reading is an exercise for the mind which has a significant impact on how your brain functions. 

Your brain is a malleable organ in your body, which means that it has the ability to change depending on the types of stimuli it is exposed to. This is known as neuroplasticity

Have you ever thought about what happens to your brain when you read?  With National Book Week approaching, we’ve decided to compile 5 facts you should know about what happens to your brain when you read. 

1. Your brain connectivity strengthens when you read

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Did you know that when you read, certain aspects of your brain become rewired? In Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Maryanne Wolf states that reading was only invented by humans a few thousand years ago. Since the inception of reading, the way in which our brains function has been altered, resulting in the expansion of awareness and consciousness of our species. She further adds that “our ancestors’ invention could come about only because of the human brain’s extraordinary ability to make new connections among its existing structures, a process made possible by the brain’s ability to be reshaped by experience.”

2. Reading can help you develop an extensive attention span

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Reading involves following a timeline that includes a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. When one reads, they are required to fully focus on the words and plot structure they are intaking, whilst simultaneously ignoring any disturbances. This assists your brain in thinking in sequences, which positively impacts your ability to think logically and pay attention. 

3. Reading enhances your vocabulary

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According to research by Cunningham and Stanovich, written words have a broader vocabulary compared to spoken words. This is especially displayed in the evidence that children’s books have a vast vocabulary, particularly 50% more rare words compared to adult TV shows. Furthermore, research shows that one’s vocabulary is more likely to expand outside of conventional teaching, which means one of the only times individuals can expand their vocabulary is when they are exposed to written or oral words outside of their current lexicon. Statistically, this vocabulary expansion will occur more when reading as opposed to talking or watching TV.

4. Reading increases your empathy

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Research by Johnson shows that reading, particularly fiction, stimulates empathy within readers. In two studies, participants were perceived as more empathetic and showed prosocial behaviour subsequent to reading a brief fictional tale. This can be attributed to the emphasis fiction places on characters compared to other genres, which results in readers ‘putting themselves in the characters’ shoes’, thereby sparking empathy which can even extend to people in their personal lives. 

5. Reading can assist with stress management

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Reading for just six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, says Dr David Lewis. Research by psychologists shows that reading is far better at stress relief than listening to music, taking a walk or drinking a warm cup of tea. Who knew that sitting back with a good book would be such a great stress reliever? The best part is that it’s free! So, kick back and get lost in a book of your choice.

Source: Capricorn Review