Want energy, Read classical prose and poetry

English playwright William Shakespeare (left) and English poet William Wordsworth (Right)

Researchers have found that reading difficult prose, such as that of Shakespeare and Wordsworth and other greatest writers, could help more than the self-help books. They can give “rocket-boost” to the brain.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool found that the writings of the greatest writers had a beneficial effect on the mind, catches the reader’s attention and stimulates the moments of self reflection.

In order to confirm this, researchers did a brain scan of the participants while their reading of the classical English literature in the original as well as the easier, modern translated, form. They found that the more difficult prose and poetry induced greater electrical activity in the brain than the layman versions. Researchers studied the brain activity and studied how it “lit up” while the readers came up with the unusual words, surprising phrases or difficult sentence structure. They found that the reaction of the mind lasted longer than the initial electrical spark moving the brain to a higher gear initiating further reading.

Researchers have also found that the poetry increased activity in the right hemisphere of the brain helping the readers to think on life according to their own experiences of life.

Philip Davis, an English professor who worked on the study with the university’s magnetic resonance centre, said in a statement, “Serious literature acts like a rocket-booster to the brain.”

Professor Neil Roberts, from the University’s Magnetic Resonance and Image Analysis Research Centre, (MARIARC), explained in a statement in 2006, “The effect on the brain is a bit like a magic trick; we know what the trick means but not how it happened.  Instead of being confused by this in a negative sense, the brain is positively excited.  The brain signature is relatively uneventful when we understand the meaning of a word but when the word changes the grammar of the whole sentence, brain readings suddenly peak.  The brain is then forced to retrace its thinking process in order to understand what it is supposed to make of this unusual word.”

“The research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid alike,” Professor Davis added.


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