Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading Matters

I watched a very interesting program on BBC IPlayer last night - "Reading Matters". It may still be available - if so do check it out - assuming you are interested in writing. Or catch it when it is hopefully repeated.

The program talked about the relationship between the physical brain and the process of reading. No mention of dyslexia, unfortunately. But that would probably have been off the main theme.

It has been known for a long time that the brain has a set of 'mirror neurons' which fire off in response to our observations of other people's actions. (I seem to be an extreme example of this, because I find my leg twitching when I watch a football match on TV and a player extends his own leg to get the ball!) But I learned from the program that our mirror neurons also fire in response to the words we read.

It is enough for us to read a description of some one's actions to have our brains modelling the same action. And how much more so, do our brains model other people's emotions. The emotions we show in the characters in our stories are literally modelled in the brains of our readers. The circuits that would generate that emotion in us are tried out. Relating to stories is literally a hard-wired response.


Anonymous said...

I forget where I read this, but aparently just imagining something kicks those mirror neurons into action. That seems to be the root of it... anything that stimulates imagination just becomes a part of it.

Rod Duncan said...

I think this is amazing too. We are empathetic creatures right down to the cellular level. And I guess beyond.