A neuroscience research project suggests that when we read novels we create a connection with the protagonist, a change that is visible in fMRI brain scans and that persists for five days.
“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.
“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.”
Read with all the usual caveats – a single study, filtered by journalists etc. – but I like the idea, any reader would agree: a good book changes your mind, puts you in an altered state. What's interesting about the study of course, is how long the effects seem to last.
I'd love to see a similar study for watching a good film.
Image: A profile of Jack Reacher by Lee Child, his creator, on the Mysterious Bookshop imprint.