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Book Smarts: The Brain Benefits of Reading

Have you read a good book lately? The benefits of reading may go beyond entertainment, by teaching you valuable skills, and even increasing various aspects of intelligence.

A new article on Big Think explores the effects of reading: How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy. The title is a bit hyperbolic—“rewiring your brain” can almost always be replaced with “learning,” which is closer to what is really going on, though it doesn’t sound as sophisticated.

Maybe that’s why reading doesn’t come up much in the world of brain training programs, nootropics, and biohacking: it’s not a new technology or technique. Reading has been there all along, making our brains better using the traditional but long-proven method of teaching us how to think better.

Of course, you are reading right now, but sorry, it doesn’t count. The most important benefits come from devoting the time and attention to longer, deeper content, such as a novel. Don’t go fooling yourself into considering a scroll through Facebook as a brain workout.

I use Goodreads to track how many books I read, and try to increase the number every year. If you are inspired to get through more novels this year too, keep tabs on your brain’s performance too, to see if it’s making a difference. Just log in to Cambridge Brain Sciences to get a full report on your current reasoning, short-term memory, verbal ability, and overall cognitive performance.

But seriously, have you read any good books lately? Let me know in the comments.


This post was written by Mike Battista, a staff scientist at Cambridge Brain Sciences.