Reading Can Improve Your Brain Health

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Reading Can Improve Your Brain Health

Do you recall the last time you picked up an actual book and read it? Do you remember the feeling that, as you flipped the pages, you became more engrossed in what you were reading? In this digital age, we’ve become so accustomed to reading on our phones, tablets, and laptops that we have taken for granted reading an actual book. Reading frequently has a lot of benefits, and is a good workout for the brain.

How Reading Affects Your Brain

Reading is a great way to enhance your cognitive functions because it stimulates the brain in various ways. It helps your brain develop stronger neural connections and improves your ability to retain and recall information. Reading also activates multiple areas of your brain and enhances communication between them.

More Developed Occipital Lobe

The occipital lobe is the part of your brain that processes visual information. This includes identifying shapes and colors, recognizing faces and objects, detecting motion, visuospatial processing, and depth perception. It is in charge of processing visual stimuli and sending that information to other parts of the brain so you can make sense of it. This is what allows you to see objects and understand what they are. Studies show that frequent readers have more developed occipital lobes, which means they can process visual information more efficiently. Reading was shown to enhance their creativity and imagination.

Strengthened Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe is the part of your brain that controls your somatosensory and motor functions, including touch, temperature, and pain. It also plays a role in reading comprehension and writing, turning letters into words and words into thoughts. Research shows that readers have a strengthened parietal lobe.

Reading with comprehension involves identifying words, processing language—including grammar and syntax—and remembering what’s been read. It requires you to make inferences based on what you’ve read, which can be challenging depending on the complexity of the text. When you read something that challenges your existing knowledge base, your brain has to work harder to process it, which can help improve its ability to store new information.

In a 2013 study, the researchers used functional MRI scans to measure the effect of reading the novel “Pompeii” on the brain over nineteen days. The brain scans of participants showed increased brain connectivity, and areas of the brain lit up with activity when tension built in the novel. The increase in brain connectivity was observed more in the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations (movement or pain), called the somatosensory cortex.  

5 Ways Reading Benefits Your Brain

Reading frequently does more than enrich the brain with information; it also changes how the brain functions for the better. These are ways reading benefits your brain.

Prevents Memory Loss

Mental stimulation like reading can help protect your memory. A study concluded that people who participate in mentally challenging activities most often, both early and late in life, showed a slower decline in their memories than those who don’t. These findings add to the growing evidence that mental challenges, such as reading, may help preserve brain health and reduce the risk of dementia.

Strengthens the Brain 

Reading is a way to exercise your brain and keep it healthy. It helps the brain stay sharp by strengthening its capacity to process information. When you read frequently, your brain undergoes long-term potentiation (LTP), a process where synaptic connections between neurons become stronger with repeated activation.

Reduces Stress

When you’re under chronic stress, your body produces more cortisol, a hormone that helps you respond quickly to stressful situations. Higher cortisol was associated with impaired memory and lower brain performance. It is vital to alleviate or reduce your stress levels to keep your brain healthy. Reading is an excellent way to relax, soothe, and decompress after a long day. When you read, you can get lost in a world that’s entirely different from your own, which helps distract you from the stressors of your everyday life. Reading also improves your mood. 

Improves Vocabulary and Communication Skills

You are exposed to new words and phrases that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter when you read. Reading also helps you understand the nuances and subtleties of language—for example, the difference between “a little” and “a few.”

Reading helps improve your ability to communicate effectively in writing and speech. Reading literature can give you practice in writing clearly and persuasively, while reading nonfiction can help you develop a more organized approach to writing.

Better Sleep

The brain greatly benefits from the restorative powers of sleep. Lack of sleep can result to memory loss, fatigue, mood swings, and lack of motivation. It is important to get enough quality sleep to maintain a healthy brain and achieve peak mental performance.

A 2021 study called the “Reading Trial” concluded that reading before bedtime has a positive effect on the quality of sleep. 42% of the participants reported that reading a book in bed improved their sleep. 

Reading an Actual Book vs. Reading on Screen

In this digital age, it’s easy to think of paper books as outdated. But picking up an actual book has benefits that electronic books can’t replicate.

Reading on a screen slows you down and you absorb less of what you read. The more time we spend reading on screens, the more our eyes adapt to non-linear reading. This trains our brains to read in a way that scans and skims for information instead of focusing on one thing at a time. Studies show that this can cause readers to miss key details in texts or even forget important information from the text altogether. When we scan or skim text on a screen, our eyes dart around the digital page—often skipping over words and sentences entirely. The result is that we absorb less information than if we were reading from paper. 

When we read from an actual book, our eyes move back and forth across the page in a pattern that allows us to take in words and sentences one at a time. Paper books are designed to be read sequentially. It trains your mind to focus more deeply on the content at hand and recall information. Feeling the weight of the book, seeing the words, and smelling the pages as you flip stimulates your brain.

Neuroscience has shown that when we read from paper, our brains activate different areas of the brain than when we read from screens. These differences in brain activity might be responsible for some of these cognitive issues related to reading on screens. 

Key Takeaway

Reading is one of the most powerful and effective ways to stimulate your brain and improve your memory. Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to pick up a book and read, read, read.

 

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