This Is How Reading Rewires Your Brain, According to Neuroscience Reading doesn't just cram information into your brain. It changes how your brain works.
This Is How Reading Rewires Your Brain, According to NeuroscienceReading doesn't just cram information into your brain. It changes how your brain works. BY JESSICA STILLMAN@ENTRYLEVELREBEL
Another line of research shows that deep reading, the kind that happens when you curl up with a great book for an extended period of time, also builds up our ability to focus and grasp complex ideas. Studies show that the less you really read (skim reading from your phone doesn't count), the more these essential abilities wither.
But what about the long-term? What does all that time spent mastering your letters as an elementary school student do to your brain? A recent article by The WEIRDest People in the World author and Harvard professor Joseph Henrich sums up the answer to these questions nicely.
The whole piece offers an account of how the Protestant reformation led to a huge increase in literacy rates. You don't have to care about the historical details (the research is super interesting if you do) to find Henrich's explanation of how learning to read permanently rewires our brains fascinating:
This renovation has left you with a specialized area in your left ventral occipital temporal region, shifted facial recognition into your right hemisphere, reduced your inclination toward holistic visual processing, increased your verbal memory, and thickened your corpus callosum, which is the information highway that connects the left and right hemispheres of your brain.
No one is going to quiz you on brain anatomy, so you probably don't need to memorize the specifics here. But the overarching picture is worth remembering.
Reading isn't just a way to cram facts into your brain. It's a way to rewire how your brain works in general. It strengthens your ability to imagine alternative paths, remember details, picture detailed scenes, and think through complex problems. In short, reading makes you not just more knowledgeable, but also functionally smarter. Which is why the only thing that everyone you admire can agree on is that you should read more.
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