Emory University’s Gregory Berns using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to conduct neurobiological research has identified specific portions of the brain that respond when reading. Using twenty-one undergrad volunteers, Berns found that: “two main classes of changes were seen. First, heightened connectivity was seen in the left temporal cortex, and area associated with understanding language. Remember that the students were not reading while the fMRI scans were being taken, which shows us that the brain remained “at alert” to continue this activity. This is called a “shadow activity.
Increased connectivity was also found in the central sulcus of the brain, which is located at the boundary between the motor and the sensory centers. The neurons in this area are not only activated when the body is active, but also when you think about being active. For example, thinking about running produces very similar changes in this region to those which occur when actually running.”
Professor Berns also added, “the neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist. We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”
Now there is scientific evidence to support what readers have known all along.