23 October 2012

A Good Old Jane Austen Brain Workout

At the moment, I seem to spend all my time either furiously scribbling and plotting an outline for my 50,000 word  NaNoWriMo attempt next month or coming up with things to blog about so, quite naturally, my mind is occupied completely by writing. I do, however, also love to read. It doesn't matter what it is, be it the blogs that I follow, a good book or my favourite magazine (the New Scientist ... but don't tell anyone!!) Every morning, I read the online versions of my favourite newspapers, The Times and The Guardian for the factual news and The Daily Mail, which I read purely for the gossip. At the start of October, I was fascinated to find an article in the Daily Mail which was almost intelligent. It said that reading Jane Austen novels was the cerebral equivalent of a brisk workout because, apparently, it activates the areas of the brain which are more commonly associated with movement and touch. Now, I don't make a habit of quoting articles I read in the Daily Mail because some of the journalism is, shall we say, slightly questionable not to mention  full of spelling mistakes, so when I do find something that interests me on the DM website, I always try and find the source of the article before I tell people about it. This is mainly so I don't look like a total moron when the article turns out to be something thought up by a desperate journalist on the tube into work, half an hour before the paper goes to print!!! In this case, I located a source at The Stanford University News, a well respected and reliable publication and as such I feel confident I won't look a total idiot if I mention the article.

Natalie Phillips, professor of 18th Century Literature and Culture at Michigan State University, who led the study, put test volunteers through an MRI scanner while asking them to firstly read a passage of a Jane Austen book by just skimming and then by reading the passage more closely. Preliminary results revealed that when asked to study the book closely, as opposed to simply skimming the book as we would normally do when reading for pleasure, a dramatic and unexpected increase in blood flow was observed to regions of the brain which differed from the areas of the brain used for pleasure reading. She concluded that how we read and by focusing closely on what we read, we can use reading as a sort of literary cognitive training and improve our concentration. How amazing. I confess, I find books by authors like Jane Austen and The Bronte sisters extremely enjoyable but it does take me a while to get into the language. So, in the spirit of giving my brain a good old workout, this evening, I will embark on reading my favourite Jane Austen book ........ Pride and Prejudice. I'm feeling brainier already.

Should you wish to join me in Nerdville you can read the rest of the article here 


  1. I must confess that I have never read a Jane Austen novel, but I have seen many films made from them, and enjoyed them very much.
    Thank you so much for following my blog. I am so excited and looking forward to sharing ideas and becoming great blogging sisters.

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