Reading May Even Help You Live Longer
Not only is reading beneficial for brain health, but it is also linked to a longer life. A large 12-year study published in 2017 found reading books is associated with a 20% reduction in risk of mortality compared to those who didn’t read books.
Reading may not cause you to live longer on its own, but it might be associated with an overall healthy lifestyle and a lower risk of early death.
Chapter 8 Toward A Culture Of Neurons
|Reading opens up whole new vistas on the nature of the interactions between cultural learning and the brain. The neuronal recycling model should extend to cultural inventions other than reading. Mathematics, art, and religion may also be construed as constrained devices, adjusted to our primate brains by millennia of cultural evolution. There is, however, a key unresolved question: why are humans the only species to have created a culture and thus conceive of new uses for their brain circuits? I propose that the expansion of a conscious neuronal workspace, a vast system of cortical connections, allows for the flexible rearrangement of mental objects for novel purposes.|
Spoken Word Can Put Your Brain To Work:
Critics are quick to dismiss audiobooks as a sub-par reading experience, but research has shown that the act of listening to a story can light up your brain. When we’re told a story, not only are language processing parts of our brain activated, experiential parts of our brain come alive, too. Hear about food? Your sensory cortex lights up, while motion activates the motor cortex. And while you may think that this is limited only to audiobooks or reading, experts insist that our brains are exposed to narratives all day long. In fact, researcher Jeremy Hsu shares, “Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.” So go ahead, listen to your coworker’s long and drawn out story about their vacation, tune in to talk radio, or listen to an audiobook in the car: it’s good exercise for your brain.
Reading Increases Your Skill In An Area Of Interest
Reading about your specific field or interests can improve your success in your field. Youll gain factual knowledge and learn from others experiments and mistakes. Several years ago I became interested in herbs and natural medicine and turned to books since I didnt have an herb garden. For months I pored over herb books, drinking in knowledge. When I was able to grow my own herbs, I avoided multiple experiments and failures because of my reading. I knew that peppermint is good for upset stomachs and comfrey heals cuts. So I made tea with my peppermint and a salve with the comfrey.
Reading Before Bed Can Help You Sleep
Creating a bedtime ritual, like reading before bed, signals to your body that its time to wind down and go to sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic. Reading a real book helps you relax more than zoning out in front of a screen before bed. Screens like e-readers and tablets can actually keep you awake longer and even hurt your sleep. That applies to kids too: Fifty-four percent of children sleep near a small screen, and clock 20 fewer minutes of shut-eye on average because of it, according to research published in Pediatrics. So reach for the literal page-turners before switching off the light.
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Books Provide Plenty Of Mental Stimulation
Mentally stimulating your brain on a regular basis can help slow down Alzheimers and Dementia. Its like physical exercise the more you move, the better shape youre in. For your brain to stay healthy and alert, it needs exercise. Reading keeps your activity levels high and your brain power nice and strong.
Reading Can Improve Your Empathy Skills
Reading can also make you a more empathetic person. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. What better way to improve that skill than by reading from someone elses point of view? In books, we see the world through someone elses eyes and feel their feelings with them. Applying this skill in real life is a lot easier when weve had the practice. Reading not only boosts our intelligence but also makes us more understanding of other people. So, what are you waiting for? Get reading!
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Reading And The Brain: Reading Is The Same As Experiencing
Researcher Raymond Mar, doctor of psychology from York University, went even further. According to his studies on the subject, everything seems to indicate that the brain doesnt distinguish well between the things it has experienced and the things it has read about. Something similar happens when youre watching a movie, but with reading, its a more intimate, deep experience. It makes much bigger changes in the brain.
Our brains behave similarly when we imagine a story and when we truly experience it. Dr. Mar said that when one reads about an action that a character is doing, the same areas required to carry out those actions also activate in our brain. In other words, we experience the reading of a story as if we were the actual character.
These changes produced within the brain have even been located with neuroimaging tests. For example, when a character is walking, the areas of motor function associated with walking are activated in the brain.
We literally experience what we read, and its all due to one particular type of neuron: mirror neurons. Yes, the same neurons that make us, for example, mimic a yawn when we see someone else yawn. The ones that make a baby smile when someone smiles at her.
Chapter 7 Reading And Symmetry
|In everyday language, a dyslexic is someone who confuses left and right and makes mirror errors in reading. Symmetry perception probably plays a significant role in reading, but left-right confusions are not unique to dyslexics. Early in life, virtually all children make mirror errors in reading and writing. Indeed, the ability to generalize across symmetrical views, which facilitates view-invariant object recognition, is one of the essential competences of the visual system. When children learn to read, they must unlearn mirror generalization in order to process b and d as distinct letters. In some children, this unlearning process, which goes against the spontaneous abilities inherited from evolution, seems to present a specific source of impairment.|
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How Learning To Read Changes The Brain
Our brains arent pre-wired to translate letters into sounds. We learn to read by repurposing parts of the brain meant to do other things visual processing, language comprehension, and speech production.
Researchers have studied these areas using a type of brain imaging called functional MRI .
The temporo-parietal cortex and inferior frontal cortex play key roles in phonological processing. These areas help us sound out the words were looking at. The occipito-temporal cortex helps us recognize words by sight. As we recognize more words by sight, we can read faster.
These three areas are involved in reading no matter which language people read in. And differences in these areas are found in the brains of people with dyslexia all around the world.
How Does The Brain Work
The brain works like a big computer. It processes information that it receives from the senses and body, and sends messages back to the body. But the brain can do much more than a machine can: humans think and experience emotions with their brain, and it is the root of human intelligence.
The human brain is roughly the size of two clenched fists and weighs about 1.5 kilograms. From the outside it looks a bit like a large walnut, with folds and crevices. Brain tissue is made up of about 100 billion nerve cells and one trillion supporting cells which stabilize the tissue.
There are various sections of the brain, each with their own functions:
- the cerebrum
- the diencephalon including the thalamus, hypothalamus and pituitary gland
- the brain stem including the midbrain, pons and medulla
- the cerebellum
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The Brain Benefits Reading And Listening Have In Common
Most people know that reading is good for brain health, but a lot of people don’t know why. “Reading is a cognitively engaging task that requires higher-level cognitive processing integrating written information and language comprehension,” Dr. Willeumier says. She explains that readingâand then processing what you’re readingâactivates different parts of the brain. She says this includes the frontal lobes , temporal lobes , parietal lobes , occipital lobes , and cerebellum .
“A consistent reading practice strengthens your ability to communicate and will improve your vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills while enhancing brain network connectivity. Reading has been shown to promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that lead to greater longevity,” Dr. Willeumier adds. For example, researchers at Yale School of Public Health found that book reading had a 20 percent reduction in mortality in readers versus non-readers.
An Interview With Henry Winkler
Q: You’ve said that teachers and your own father called you “lazy and stupid” and that you spent a lot of time covering up your difficulties with learning. What were some of the ways you tried to cover up the fact that reading was extremely difficult for you? What signs should parents or teachers look for if they suspect their child or student is “masking” a learning difficulty?
A: I definitely was the class clown. If the teacher read a story out loud, and one of the characters was a hunter shooting ducks out of the air, I became that hunter. I got behind my desk, made the class laugh, and was sent to the principal.
Here it is. A child with a learning challenge is embarrassed by their inability to keep up. They already feel bad. All they need is support, support, a little more support, and then some support. And, ALL of that support must be positive.
Q: Although you endured the pains of growing up with dyslexia, you endured and succeeded in life. What qualities did you have that helped you overcome your learning disability and how can adults help children develop and cultivate those qualities?
A: If there was one word that I would pass on to all children, it would be tenacity. What your school abilities are, and how you perceive your dreams are two very different things. I was not very good at spelling, math, reading, geography, history I was, however, great at lunch. That being said, my dream of being an actor never wavered.
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What Does Being Bilingual Do To The Brain
Any learning that we carry out has an effect on our brain. Learning is possible thanks to the plasticity of the brain, which involves the creation of new connections between neurons as a consequence of storing new information.
Throughout life we learn factual or declarative information about the world around us: words, phone numbers, land masses, the ingredients of an omelette, our citys streets, the rankings of our favourite teams, the names of the elements of the periodic table, that cod and rice is better if the rice has peas in it, and so on.
This type of information is what we often say is learned by heart, and we see how, as some neurodegenerative diseases progress, it disappears. But we also learn how to do things: to walk, cycle, swim, drive a car, speak and read, and so on. This is what we call procedural information, which is what allows us to carry out highly automated activities.
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Learning a language involves the absorption of these two different types of information, since on the one hand, we have to acquire the lexical items and on the other, the grammatical processes to combine them .
But how does the acquisition and use of two languages affect the brain? In other words, is there a difference between the brain of bilinguals and that of monolinguals in terms of the neural network responsible for processing language?
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Structure Of The Brain
The cerebrum has a right half and a left half, known as the right and left hemispheres. The two hemispheres are connected via a thick bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. Each hemisphere is made up of six areas that have different functions. The cerebrum controls movement and processes sensory information. Conscious and unconscious actions and feelings are produced here. It is also responsible for speech, hearing, intelligence and memory.
The functions of the two hemispheres are to a great extent different: whereas the left hemisphere is responsible for speech and abstract thinking in most people, the right hemisphere is usually responsible for spatial thinking or imagery. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. This means that damage to the left hemisphere due to a stroke, for example, can lead to paralysis on the right side of the body.
The left cerebral cortex is responsible for speech and language. The right cerebral cortex supplies spatial information, such as where your foot is at the moment. The thalamus provides the cerebrum with sensory information from the skin, eyes and ears, as well as other information. The hypothalamus regulates things like hunger, thirst and sleep. Together with the pituitary gland, it also regulates the hormones in your body.
The cerebellum coordinates movements and is responsible for balance.
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Reading Affects Your Brain
What happens when a literate human reads a written word? The word is processed from the eyes to the occipital lobe at the back of the brain. The word then becomes recognized in the left fusiform gyrus, a part of the brain that is only developed in literate people. Recognized as a symbol, and not as patterns or shapes, the word and its letters can thus be identified in any font, case, or typeface. This data is subsequently processed in the language areas of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which can decipher the words meaning and as well as how it is pronounced.
Whether you are studying a book for school, or just reading for pleasure, the storyline, characters, subplots, and various other details that make up a book stimulate your memory and the ability to recall. The consumption of complex poetry has been shown to be especially helpful in stimulating brain function in areas of language and personal memory.
Poetry from Shakespeare, Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot, and others were used in a 2006 study at the University of Liverpool. It was found that the more complex the text is, the stronger the activity shown in the language areas of the brain. In addition, the regions of the brain associated with personal memories were found to be active during reading as well, indicative of how poetry can nudge us to draw from personal experiences.
The Wordbox In Our Brain
About a third of our brain is specialized in analyzing things that we see. This part of the brain is also known as the visual system. This system is based in the cortex, the folded surface of the brain. Areas of the visual system lie in occipital cortex and parts of temporal and parietal cortices.
- Figure 3 – The wordbox in our brain.
- The upper part of the image shows the left half of the brain, also called the left hemisphere, in a view from the side. The lower part of the image shows that same left hemisphere from a bottom view. The cortex of the human brain is divided into four parts: the occipital cortex , the temporal cortex , the parietal cortex , and the frontal cortex . Things that we see are analyzed in the visual system located in the occipital cortex and in parts of the temporal and parietal cortices. The human brain has developed regions that are specialized for language information. Words we speak or comprehend are processed in the regions marked with orange ovals. The wordbox or visual word form area used for recognizing the shapes of words we look at is marked by the purple oval. It can only be seen when looking at the brain from the bottom. The dashed purple oval marks where this area would be if you could see it from the side. The wordbox acts as a translator between our visual system and our language regions.
Is the wordbox already in our brain when we are born or is it only there after we learn how to read? And do illiterate people have it?
Difference In Brains Of A Reader And A Non
The brain of a reader is certainly different from that of a non-reader, according to Dr Venkataramana. This is because the more you read the more it keeps your brain active. Our brain contains as many as a billion neurons and it has the ability to make 300 million connections. Reading helps in expanding the network of the brain, and there is growing evidence that it helps prevent Alzheimers disease as well as degeneration of the brain.