The Brain, Story and the Written Word

by Mary K.  Clark.

Can stories stimulate and possibly even change how we act in life?  Neuroscience is showing that it can according to Annie Murphy Paul in her New York Times Opinion Piece, Your Brain on Fiction.

Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.

Ms. Paul shares research and evidence involving the written word and the way the brain handles
metaphors involving texture, words depicting movement and how reading even sharpens our social skills such as the ability to empathize with and understand other people. Of course we already knew that reading a novel or a short story can transport us to another place!

Thanks to Lani Peterson, Psy.D. at for bringing this article to our attention on the HSA Listserv.

– Mary

©Copyright 5/15/2012 by Mary K. Clark.  All Rights Reserved.



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