Poetry is like music to the mind, scientists prove

October 9, 2013, University of Exeter
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."

Explore further: This is your brain on Vivaldi and Beatles

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

Related Stories

This is your brain on Vivaldi and Beatles

August 7, 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 music processing ...

This is your brain on freestyle rap: Study reveals characteristic brain patterns of lyrical improvisation

November 15, 2012
Researchers in the voice, speech, and language branch of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have used functional magnetic resonance imaging ...

Brain network decay detected in early Alzheimer's

August 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 ...

Get the picture? New high-res images show brain activity like never before

October 4, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—In the middle of the human brain there is a tiny structure shaped like an elongated donut that plays a crucial role in managing how the body functions. Measuring just 10 millimeters in length and six millimeters ...

Has evolution given humans unique brain structures?

February 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, ...

Researchers debunk myth of 'right-brain' and 'left-brain' personality traits

August 15, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Newly released research findings from University of Utah neuroscientists assert that there is no evidence within brain imaging that indicates some people are right-brained or left-brained.

Recommended for you

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

A 'touching sight': How babies' brains process touch builds foundations for learning

January 16, 2018
Touch is the first of the five senses to develop, yet scientists know far less about the baby's brain response to touch than to, say, the sight of mom's face, or the sound of her voice.

Brain zaps may help curb tics of Tourette syndrome

January 16, 2018
Electric zaps can help rewire the brains of Tourette syndrome patients, effectively reducing their uncontrollable vocal and motor tics, a new study shows.

Researchers identify protein involved in cocaine addiction

January 16, 2018
Mount Sinai researchers have identified a protein produced by the immune system—granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)—that could be responsible for the development of cocaine addiction.

1 comment

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?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.