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Category: Media / Topics: Books Leisure Lifestyle, General Optimal Aging

Your Brain on Reading

Thomas Opping

Posted: September 24, 2020

Why your brain needs you to read every day…

Editor's Note: We have a wonderful library in Wheaton, Illinois, so it is always easy to find good material. A few years ago I got in the habit of checking the New Books section. While I do search out fiction, it has led me to explore a wide range of subjects in the non-fiction section, often providing new insights to familiar topics or introducing me to something I may not have been familiar with or even avoided. This habit has also led me into the stacks to pursue an author or topic. You can do it all electronically, of course, especially if you don't have such ready access to a good library, but I still find something very satisfaying about reading from the physical book.

When I ran across Thomas Opping's article, I knew it had to be shared, and hope it will inspire you. Followig is an excerpt of key points. A link to the full version will be found at the bottom of the page.


Reading puts your brain to work.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.

It gives us freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history, and offer a deeper view of ideas, concepts, emotions, and body of knowledge.

Roberto Bolaño says, “Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.”

Your brain on books is active — growing, changing and making new connections and different patterns, depending on the type of material you’re reading.

Reading Heightens Brain Connectivy

Our brains change and develop in some fascinating ways when we read.

As you read these words, your brain is decoding a series of abstract symbols and synthesizing the results into complex ideas.

It’s an amazing process.

The reading brain can be likened to the real-time collaborative effort of a symphony orchestra, with various parts of the brain working together, like sections of instruments, to maximize our ability to decode the written text in front of us.

Reading rewires parts of your brain.. . .

The same neurological regions of the brain are stimulated by reading about something as by experiencing it. . . .

Reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline and keeps the brains healthier.

It Enhances Fluid Reasoning

Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence as well.

“Fluid intelligence” is that ability to solve problems, understand things and detect meaningful patterns.

Reading can increase fluid intelligence, and increased fluid intelligence also improves reading comprehension.

Research at Stanford showed a neurological difference between reading for pleasure and focused reading, as if for a test.

Blood flows to different neural areas depending on how reading is conducted.

A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology found overlap in brain regions used to comprehend stories and networks dedicated to interactions with others.

Reading Makes You Emotionally Intelligent

Fiction is a social experience.

The reading process plays an important social function.

While reading fiction, you mentally imagine the event, the situation, the characters, and the details described by the author.

It’s a total immersion process. . . .

Researchers at Emory University found that reading a novel heightensconnections in the parts of the brain that deal with language reception.

It Improves Concentration

In a single 30 minutes span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, talking to colleagues, keeping an eye on social media, and constantly reacting to notifications.

Reading not only improves your brain’s connectivity, it also increases attention spans, focus and concentration.

If you struggle to focus, reading can improve your attention span.

When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story or gaining a better understanding of a particular topic — the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing. . . .

Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation!

Embrace the Reading Habit

In a world where information is the new currency, reading is the best source of continuous learning, knowledge and acquiring more of that currency.

Reading requires patience, diligence, and determination.

Reading is like any skill. You have to practice it, regularly and constantly.

Where you prefer the alluring glow and convenience of a smartphone or the sense of control of a paper book, by all means make time to read.

Next time you choose a book from the shelf, or download a new title on your Kindle, stop and think about what you’re reading — it could impact you more than you realise!

Thomas Oppong is the founder of AllTopStartups and writes on science-based answers to problems in life about creativity, productivity, and self-improvement. This article was first published June 8, 2018.


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Posted: September 24, 2020

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