Reading a book triggers an active response in a person’s brain, replicating the activity described in the story, a study by Washington University researchers in St. Louis, Mo., indicates.
A brain-imaging study at Washington University tracked brain activity as participants read sections of a story.
What scientists discovered was that parts of the brain associated with certain activities described in the story would light up as the person read those sections.
For instance, if a character pulled a light cord in the story, the frontal lobe region, which controls grasping motions, would increase in activity.
“There has been good evidence for a while that mental simulation — imagination — can improve performance in sport and other skilled behaviours.
This study suggests that readers do mental simulation when they comprehend a story,” Jeffrey Zacks, director of the university’s dynamic cognition laboratory, told the Guardian newspaper.
Zacks is also co-author of the study, soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science. The study’s lead author is Nicole Speer.
Researchers say those written details about actions and sensation are captured and integrated with personal knowledge from past experiences.
The information is run through mental simulations using brain regions that closely mirror those involved when people perform, imagine or observe real-life activities