In the following article, scientists state that reading a good book will boost brain function for days later.
The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the primary sensory motor region of the brain.
Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition – for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.
“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,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.
The article made me think. I’ve read about grounded cognition quite often lately. As a reader, I can attest to what it feels like to read a good book where I’m immersed in the characters. After an action scene I’m often exhausted.
But what does it do to a writer?
I’ve made the point before, and I think it bears repeating, that writing a book is a very emotional experience, at least for me.
You have to feel what the character feels. In order to convey emotions correctly to the reader, you have to experience it first. That’s why I’m often emotionally wrung out after a book is finished.
But the grounded cognition theory also made me wonder something else. Sometimes, I feel myself pulling away a little. The other day it finally dawned on me what it was. I had to bleed and I didn’t particularly want to. I had to suffer the same emotions as the characters, and I wasn’t prepared to go to those depths emotionally.
When that happens, and it happens to me during every book, I write around it. I write descriptive scenes or characters in subplots or I write something that doesn’t touch the emotions as much. Finally, though, I have to dive into the deep end and feel.
As a reader, I know there are times when I don’t want an angsty read. Yet even in a humorous book I have to identify with the characters. That connection still costs in terms of emotional capital on the part of both the writer and the reader.
What do you think? Do you prefer books with an emotional connection? When you read do you experience grounded cognition?