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I’m reading 50 Shades because it’s good for me. Yeah, that’s it.

December 30, 2013

According to a study from Emery University, brain activity is boosted for as long as five days after you read a gripping novel. The article about the study compared the strengthening to muscle memory, and linked it to a phenomenon called grounded cognition where, for instance, thinking about running can trigger the same neuron activity as running itself does. (Unfortunately, for the cardio benefits, increased metabolism, and muscle toning, you actually have to run. Sorry.)

“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. The study had 21 students read a nightly portion of Pompeii by Robert Harris, then submit to brain scans each morning. The changes to their brains remained five days after they finished reading the books.

In reality, though, some of this isn’t new ground for people who read books that grab them. The magic of a good book is that it takes you from your current existence and transports you to the world created by the author. It’s almost like you cease to exist for that time period, in favor of the protagonist or experience of the book.

Oh, baby that was so good. For my brain.

What’s interested is the five-day mental afterburn. In a world in which people pay to play the games on to maintain mental acuity, maybe a good novel is a worthwhile and more enjoyable experience.

Another benefit would be a longer attention span in a world that continues to require a faster pace with more bite-sized pieces of information.

So there, when you’re reading 50 Shades of Grey or some other book that people look down their nose at and someone gives you the stink-eye, you can say you’re working out.


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