Shakespeare and Wordsworth boost the brain, new research reveals
Study reveals heightened brain activity caused by the challenge of reading classic texts.
â€” The Telegraph
What English majors already knew
Scientists, psychologists and English academics at Liverpool University have found that reading the works of the Bard and other classical writers has a beneficial effect on the mind, catches the readerâ€™s attention and triggers moments of self-reflection.
Using scanners, they monitored the brain activity of volunteers as they read works by William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T.S Eliot and others.
They then â€œtranslatedâ€ the texts into more â€œstraightforwardâ€, modern language and again monitored the readersâ€™ brains as they read the words.
Scans showed that the more â€œchallengingâ€ prose and poetry set off far more electrical activity in the brain than the more pedestrian versions.
Scientists were able to study the brain activity as it responded to each word and record how it â€œlit upâ€ as the readers encountered unusual words, surprising phrases or difficult sentence structure.
This â€œlighting upâ€ of the mind lasts longer than the initial electrical spark, shifting the brain to a higher gear, encouraging further reading.
The research also found that reading poetry, in particular, increases activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, an area concerned with â€œautobiographical memoryâ€, helping the reader to reflect on and reappraise their own experiences in light of what they have read. The academics said this meant the classics were more useful than self-help books...