Study unravels mystery why we get lost in books

Last Updated: Friday, July 31, 2009 - 20:08

Washington: Have you ever wondered why
some people are transported into another imaginary world while
reading a book? A new study suggests that part of the reason
might be because our brains effectively simulate the events of
the book in the same way they process events in real life.

Jeffrey Zacks and his colleagues at Washington
University in St. Louis set out to examine how a reader parses
an ongoing text into meaningful events.

He sought to suss out whether the same pattern held
for continuous reading by monitoring the brain processes of
study participants with functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) scans.

The study, detailed in the July 21 issue of the
journal Psychological Science, builds on previous work that
links the way our brains process images and written words to
the way they process actions we perform ourselves.

For the study, 28 participants including 20 women and
eight men, spent about 10 minutes reading four narratives,
each less than 1,500 words, taken from the book "One Boy`s

After the participants had read the passages, the
researchers would ask them questions to see if they recognized
the changes that occurred in the text. They then looked at the
fMRI data to see if brain activity in key areas spiked with
the changes — it did, the Live Science reported.

"It turns out that there are focal areas that are
selectively involved in each of these kinds of processing,"
Zacks said.

It explains why some readers can actually picture
what they read, others may not. "There are readers, competent
readers, who say `I have no pictures in my head when I read`,"
he said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, July 31, 2009 - 20:08

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