Every time you read, your brain converts words into information. The act of reading both makes your brain’s current neural pathways stronger and also forms new ones.

White matter in the brain is responsible for carrying signals to grey matter where the information is actually arranged for understanding and retrieval. Carnegie Mellon University Scientists documented meaningful white matter development in children during tests and studies that read a lot. White matter quality increases after just the first 100 hours of reading training.

At Emory University, the researchers discovered their own test students improved their brain development after reading. Every night during the study, students were asked to read 30 pages of a book and then completed a reading quiz afterwards. The brain scans revealed their brain’s left temporal lobe strengthened its connectivity after the reading was completed. This shows that reading makes your brain stronger and grows its connectivity structure.[1]

Research has shown that reading literary fiction increases your ability to empathize. People who read stories that explore the inner lives of fictional characters, show an increased ability to empathize and understand the feelings and beliefs of other people. [2]

Reading any type of books has shown to benefit both physical health and mental health. These benefits can last a lifetime starting as children and going all the way into our senior years.

Research shows the scientific benefits of regular reading improves brain connectivity, increases our vocabulary, increases comprehension and also grows the ability of avid readers to see and understand the perspectives of other people. [3]

There have also been many psychological benefits found from reading:

  • Reading can help with sleep.
  • Reduces stress levels.
  • It can lower blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Reading can help with the symptoms of depression.
  • Helps maintain brain health through activity and can help prevent cognitive decline with age.
  • Overall contributes to a longer life through the benefits of knowledge, education, and experience.

Reading every day may reduce the risk of dementia, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in July 2018. A 2013 study, published in the journal of Neurology showed that reading as people got older also reduced memory decline by over 30%, in comparison to other forms of mental activity. [4]

Your brain changes after reading consistently for nine days.

In a 2013 study, researchers used MRI scans to measure the effect of reading a novel on the subjects brain. Participants read the novel Pompeii over a 9 day period. The researchers found that the more tension built up in the story, the more areas of the brain lit up with activity as the participants read.

The brain scans conducted showed that through the reading and even for days later, their brain connectivity increased, the most connections were in their somatosensory cortex, which is the part of the brain that reacts to physical sensations like both movement and pain. [5]

The cognitive neuroscience of the reading brain can be compared to the collaborative effort of an orchestra. Different parts of the brain must work together, like various instruments, to optimize the ability of our mind to decode and understand the text we are trying to understand by combining letters into words, words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs of ideas.

The temporal lobe is the interpreting part of the brain. It’s responsible for interpreting communication, the phonological awareness of what words sound like and decoding the sounds you hear as words by identifying their meaning when hearing them or when reading to yourself mentally.

The frontal lobe is the integrative part of the brain. It handles speech production, reading, grammar, and understanding, making it possible to comprehend both simple and complex grammar in the languages we speak fluently.

The angular and supramarginal gyrus is the integrative part of the brain. It’s the reading integrator and acts as a type of conductor, linking different parts of the brain together to create the action of reading. These two areas of the brain connect the letters r, u, and n together to understand the word run that allows us to read it aloud.[6]

To get the full and long-term benefits of reading you must develop reading into a consistent daily habit. To develop the habit of reading start small, just read a little at a set time each day, pick something interesting. Find the best time each day for your reading and then stick with that time. If you want to really get the lessons of the books as you go you should be highlighting the key principles of the book and if you really want to download the lessons mentally then write a book review or summary on your blog, Amazon, or Goodreads. This is how learning works: reading, thinking, and then writing.

I have been an avid reader of primarily nonfiction books for the past 30 years and I can tell you that it has completely changed every area of my life. I have read over 1,400 nonfiction books and the information I discovered in those books has allowed me to be a successful trader, create a successful business, become financially independent at a young age, lose weight, succeed in marriage, and maintain a state of mindfulness.

If you want to change your life, change your reading habits.

Reading Changes Your Brain, Let Me Explain
Image created by Holly Burns