Poetry is like music to the mind, scientists prove

Poetry is like music to the mind, scientists prove
Scientists mapped brain activity when subjects read poetry and prose.

(Medical Xpress)—New brain imaging technology is helping researchers to bridge the gap between art and science by mapping the different ways in which the brain responds to poetry and prose.

Scientists at the University of Exeter used state-of-the- (fMRI) technology, which allows them to visualise which parts of the brain are activated to process various activities.

No one had previously looked specifically at the differing responses in the brain to poetry and prose.

In research published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, the team found activity in a "reading network" of which was activated in response to any written material. But they also found that more emotionally charged writing aroused several of the regions in the brain which respond to music. These areas, predominantly on the right side of the brain, had previously been shown as to give rise to the "shivers down the spine" caused by an emotional reaction to music. .

When volunteers read one of their favourite passages of poetry, the team found that areas of the brain associated with memory were stimulated more strongly than 'reading areas', indicating that reading a favourite passage is a kind of recollection.

In a specific comparison between poetry and prose, the team found evidence that poetry activates brain areas, such as the and medial temporal lobes, which have been linked to introspection.

Professor Adam Zeman, a cognitive neurologist from the University of Exeter Medical School, worked with colleagues across Psychology and English to carry out the study on 13 volunteers, all faculty members and senior graduate students in English. Their brain activity was scanned and compared when reading literal prose such as an extract from a heating installation manual, evocative passages from novels, easy and difficult sonnets, as well as their favourite .

Professor Zeman said: "Some people say it is impossible to reconcile science and art, but new brain means we are now seeing a growing body of evidence about how the responds to the experience of art. This was a preliminary study, but it is all part of work that is helping us to make psychological, biological, anatomical sense of art."

More information: www.imprint.co.uk/jcs.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

This is your brain on Vivaldi and Beatles

Aug 07, 2013

Listening to music activates large networks in the brain, but different kinds of music are processed differently. A team of researchers from Finland, Denmark and the UK has developed a new method for studying ...

Brain network decay detected in early Alzheimer's

Aug 19, 2013

In patients with early Alzheimer's disease, disruptions in brain networks emerge about the same time as chemical markers of the disease appear in the spinal fluid, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in ...

Has evolution given humans unique brain structures?

Feb 22, 2013

Humans have at least two functional networks in their cerebral cortex not found in rhesus monkeys. This means that new brain networks were likely added in the course of evolution from primate ancestor to human. These findings, ...

Recommended for you

Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

Apr 18, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—It is widely know that the grey matter of the brain is grey because it is dense with cell bodies and capillaries. The white matter is almost entirely composed of lipid-based myelin, but ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Rapid whole-brain imaging with single cell resolution

Apr 17, 2014

A major challenge of systems biology is understanding how phenomena at the cellular scale correlate with activity at the organism level. A concerted effort has been made especially in the brain, as scientists are aiming to ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
1 / 5 (1) Oct 09, 2013
All of the volunteers were students of English and they became excited when reading poetry.

From the article "and compared when reading literal prose such as an extract from a heating installation manual"...if the subjects were engineering students, would the excitement have been in evidence during the reading of the poetry or the reading of the manual?