This Is Your Brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford Researchers Are Taking Notes, by Corrie Goldman

07/09/2012View on timeline


[...] public relations officers at universities were quick to publicize brain imaging research claiming to prove the value of reading literature (e.g., Goldman 2012) [...] 


Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

Image taken from the article, showing one of the experiments conducted on the research.

This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes
Researchers observe the brain patterns of literary PhD candidates while they're reading a Jane Austen novel. The fMRI images suggest that literary reading provides "a truly valuable exercise of people's brains."

The inside of an MRI machine might not seem like the best place to cozy up and concentrate on a good novel, but a team of researchers at Stanford are asking readers to do just that.

In an innovative interdisciplinary study, neurobiological experts, radiologists and humanities scholars are working together to explore the relationship between reading, attention and distraction – by reading Jane Austen.

Surprising preliminary results reveal a dramatic and unexpected increase in blood flow to regions of the brain beyond those responsible for "executive function," areas which would normally be associated with paying close attention to a task, such as reading, said Natalie Phillips, the literary scholar leading the project.

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Published in 22/02/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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