Rewire Your Brain with a Page-Turner: How Reading Can Boost Your Language Perception

If you’ve ever felt completely engrossed in a great book, you’re not alone – and it’s actually changing your brain! Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found that when you read a novel, it increases the connectivity among neurons in the left temporal cortex, the area linked to language perception. Improving this connectivity can heighten your receptivity for language. So, if you want to improve your language skills, all you need to do is pick up a good book and start reading.

The Science Behind Reading and Language Skills

The Emory researchers conducted a study in which participants read the novel ‘Pompeii’ by Robert Harris. They discovered that reading caused changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persisted for a considerable period of time. Lead author Gregory Berns, who serves as the director of Emory’s Center for Neuropolicy, explains that stories help shape our lives, and in some cases, define who we are. The goal of this research was to understand how stories impact our brains on a neurological level.

Interestingly, the heightened brain connectivity remained even when participants were not actively reading. Berns refers to this as a “shadow activity,” similar to muscle memory.

Physical Sensation and Movement Systems

But the research doesn’t stop there! Heightened connectivity was also observed in the brain’s central sulcus, which is its primary sensory motor region. Neurons within this region are responsible for creating representations of sensations for the body, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition. This means simply thinking about an activity, like running, can activate neurons associated with physically performing that action.

According to Berns, the neural changes identified in the study “suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist.” This supports the notion that great stories can figuratively put you in someone else’s shoes, but now there’s evidence that it may also be happening on a biological level.

Lasting Effects of Reading on the Brain

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this research is the duration of these neural changes. The heightened brain connectivity was not just an immediate reaction; it persisted the morning after reading and even five days after participants completed the novel.

It remains unclear exactly how long-lasting these neural changes may be, but as Berns points out, “the fact that we’re detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain.”

Enhance Your Language Skills Through Reading

With the knowledge that reading a novel can strengthen the connectivity within the language center of your brain, it seems evident that regularly consuming literature can lead to improvements in language skills. Not only that, but it’s an enjoyable way to learn and grow!

Incorporate reading into your daily routine to maintain these neurological benefits. Here are a few ways to make the most of your reading time:

  • Choose diverse genres and authors to expose yourself to a variety of language styles.
  • As you read, visualize the story and engage with the characters to better understand the narrative.
  • Try reading works in a foreign language if you’re looking to improve your fluency.
  • Discuss what you’ve read with friends or in a book club to encourage deeper thought and understanding.


Reading is more than just a leisurely hobby – it’s an activity that could change your brain! By heightening the connectivity within the language center, you can improve your language skills, immerse yourself in the world of the characters, and potentially experience lasting neurological effects. So, why not pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read and dive into a whole new linguistic adventure!