For centuries, people have been claiming that reading a good book has altered their life; now scientists proved the real reason behind this old saying. A recent study found that reading a novel could lead to many changes in brain that highly enhance brain functioning.

George Bern headed a research and found various surprising effects of reading a good thrill story. He said that in some cases stories define a person. .

He further added, ‘We want to understand how stories get into your brain and what they do to it’. Study of George Ben was published in the journal Brain Connectivity. In the study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been utilized to see the effects produced by a book on brain networks.

fMRI scans of brain networks showed that reading a fiction story induced many changes in brain. Thrill stories produce lingering effects in brain. Any powerful story has its impact on brain for several days.


The experiment was conducted on total of 12 students. They were asked to read Pompeii for continuous 19 days.  Pompeii is a Robert Harris thriller and has the story of Mount Vesuvius eruption in Italy.

The reason for novel selection was its page-turning narrative. Its main character is a protagonist living outside Pompeii who comes to the city to rescue the girl he loves from mountain eruption as he sees the signs of eruption prior to the incident.

Professor’s view about the novel is, “It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative line.”

Previous studies were focused on the brain changes during the reading process while this study showed the after effects of reading a novel through fMRI scan.


In this study, students were asked to read nine sections of the novel in nine days; and 30 pages each day were assigned to read every evening. Then in the next day morning, when they were in resting state, their minds were scanned for first five day of the experiment after confirming that they had read the novel.

When all the nine sections were completed, the fMRI scanning was continued for the next five days also in the morning. The results of the study revealed great changes in the left temporal cortex. Left temporal cortex is the part of the brain that functions in receiving language.

Professor Berns said, “Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity. We call that a “shadow activity,” almost like a muscle memory”.

Increased activity was also seen in primary sensory motor area known as central sulcus.

Brain cells (neurons) of central sulcus has their function in creating sensations, like when a person thinks about running, they activate the brain cells that are required for running.

Professor Bern said, “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”

“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.”

According to the results of this study, effects produced by a book were not immediate and were present for five days. So, George Bern said that it was an open question for everyone to know how long the effects could last.
‘But the fact that we’re detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain.’

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