What Does Reading Do To Your Brain? Expert Answers

Ask a book lover and he/she would enumerate the many benefits of reading. Here an expert explains how reading impacts the brain. 

Shubhangi Shah
Written by: Shubhangi ShahPublished at: Aug 26, 2021Updated at: Aug 26, 2021
What Does Reading Do To Your Brain? Expert Answers

Ask a book lover and he/she would tell you the many benefits of reading. How by doing this one activity the cluttered thoughts get realigned, all that stress, anxiety and worries just melt away, you get transported to a whole new universe and you get as calm as a monk. Murasaki Shikibu, a Japanese woman, wrote ‘The Tale of Genji’ in the 11th century, which is believed to be the first novel ever written. Ten centuries since then, reading remains as popular as ever, despite the emergence of numerous new ways of storytelling, which are far easier to consume. There is something about reading that stimulates the brain that when you read intently, it stays with you for a long time.

To know about the impact of reading on our brains, Onlymyhealth spoke to Dr. NK Venkataramana. He is the Founder Chairman & Director Neurosciences at Brains Hospitals in Bengaluru. Here is what Dr Venkataramana had to say about this activity, its benefits and the many aspects of reading:

What Happens To The Brain When We Read?

Reading stimulates the brain

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Reading stimulates multiple areas of the brain. “For instance, if you read quietly, it stimulates your vision and if you read loudly, it stimulates your hearing too,” Dr Venkataramana told Onlymyhealth. Depending on the topic, association areas get activated. “When you are reading something related to your experience then it triggers past memories. When you read something new, it creates a new circuit of learning and activates the memory system. Also depending on the degree of interest and necessity, it will create a new synapse and a new circuit from where we get newer ideas. Sometimes reading poetry leads to visualization and triggers the activity of the brain,” he added.

Benefits Of Reading Since Childhood

Our relationship with books generally starts at an early age. Maybe not directly, but listening to those bedtime stories from our parents and grandparents probably marks our first relationship with books. It eventually transforms into our parents getting us children’s books or those recommended by our teachers. According to Dr Venkataramana, “reading is definitely helpful.” It helps one to acquire knowledge, evolve intellectually, professionally, personally, culturally and also helps one in becoming a better person,” he said. And any kind of reading is good, be it scriptures, current affairs or science. It also helps us understand other humans better.

Difference in Brains Of A Reader And A Non-Reader

The brain of a reader is “certainly” different from that of a non-reader, according to Dr Venkataramana. This is because the more you read the more it keeps your brain active. Our brain contains as many as a billion neurons and it has the ability to make 300 million connections. “Reading helps in expanding the network of the brain,” and there is growing evidence that it helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease as well as degeneration of the brain.

Also read: Is Your Child Showing Exceptional Reading Abilities? It Could Be Hyperlexia

Does Reading Help With Stress, Anxiety, Depression And Cognitive Disorders?

Reading might help with cognitive disorders

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As stated above, there is evidence that reading helps with Alzheimer’s as well as degeneration of the brain. Reading is a good habit in general and it differs from person to person, some are voracious readers and some are occasional. “Few derive relaxation as they read and also good sleep, and over a period of time they become habituated. Also choosing the right material to read matters,” Dr Venkataramana said.

Fiction Or Non-Fiction? Regular Books Or E-books? What To Choose?

Both fiction and non-fiction are good, given that you get the essence of it. Also, you need to understand and differentiate as to what to pick up and what not to. Regarding regular and e-books, the former triggers two memories -- vision and the past memories, which is why it stays with you longer. In e-books, this is a little less. However, with e-learning gaining momentum, our brains might slowly adapt to the change.

Also read: Is Almond a Good Option For Snacking? Read What This Study Has Found

Reading, in general, has immense health benefits. It keeps you updated and increases your ability to comprehend and understand. “Every reading increases your interest, curiosity, ability to grasp, store and reproduce better,” Dr Venkataramana said.

(With inputs from Dr. NK Venkataramana, Founder Chairman & Director Neurosciences at Brains Hospitals in Bengaluru)

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