The human brain is one of the most complex, mysterious, and spectacular things in the known world. It can process information, coordinate everything our bodies do and require little maintenance throughout our lives. What’s even more interesting is that even though it has nothing in common with our muscles from a strictly biological point of view, the brain can be trained, improved, and kept healthy and fit through certain activities that work as a physical exercise sessions.
One of the activities that bring our brains the most benefits is reading. So, what does reading do to your brain? Does reading help your brain?
Here at Basmo, we are committed to finding out every single thing about books and reading, and their effects on our brains was pretty high on the list. Here’s what we found out.
Does reading help your brain?
Even without looking at any studies or scientifically proven facts, we can easily see that reading has a beneficial effect on most aspects of our lives. Reading is an efficient learning tool, an amazingly relaxing and enriching activity, and there is no surprise that some of the most successful people in the world are avid readers and encourage others to be as well.
How reading affects the brain is a topic that baffled scientists for decades if not even centuries, but the general consensus has always been that reading has some positive effects on the health and performance of the most important and mysterious part of our body.
Studies have shown that reading has both short and long-term effects on brain connectivity. As you know, connectivity is basically what our brain relies on for functioning, so it goes without saying that increasing brain connectivity improves its health and performance. The way our brain makes neuronal connections, establishing pathways that determine every single action we do, every thought we have, and every memory we are able to recall is the core of our superior intelligence as a species.
Reading doesn’t just help our brain be more performant, but it also helps it stay healthy and agile for longer. Studies have shown that people who read constantly are less likely to be affected by mental-decline diseases induced by old age. Slowing down or completely preventing age-induced mental decline helps us avoid diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Reading’s effect on the speed of our age-induced cognitive decline proves without a doubt that it is an activity that benefits our brain greatly throughout our lives.
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Track the books you read, monitor the time you spend reading and keep notes on your reading habits and how it makes you feel. You can set yourself targets for the time you spend reading and you can get notified whenever you’re behind on your reading time.
What does reading do to the brain?
Now that we established that reading does have a positive effect on the way our brains work and age, let’s go into a little more detail about the ways this effect is actually achieved through reading.
Reading increases brain connectivity
Even though I already mentioned this above, I cannot stress enough how important this effect is for our brain. The way our brains develop and work relies mainly on neuronal connections, which can be seen as tiny bridges being built from one neuron to another. Each learning task we go through ever since our birth relies on our brain making these connections and constructing the neuronal networks through which electrical impulses travel to and from their respective sources.
To better understand the complexity of these networks, you should know that the mature brain consists of over 100 billion neurons or nerve cells and another trillion supporting cells that have the purpose of stabilizing the tissue.
The generated chemical and electrical impulses later travel throughout our bodies to determine every single aspect of its functioning: from breathing to complex athletic movements, they all rely on the same type of neuronal structure.
What happens to your brain when you read is important because each reading session generates millions of impulses that travel throughout entire neuronal networks, while the brain also creates new ones with each page you read. The brain is highly stimulated in different areas, which leads to it becoming healthier and better performant.
Grounded, or embodied cognition is a concept that basically rejects the theory that cognition is only done through a computational model. Rather than thinking of our brain function the way we understand how a hard drive works, scientists theorize that our brains are much more complex than initially thought.
Through grounded cognition, we understand that each learning, memorizing, and recalling process actually starts with a sensorial component and that the process is not solely done by our brains. To make things a bit clearer, scientists have discovered that if we read for example about a person dancing, this activates certain neuronal structures in our brain that are responsible for actual dancing.
This makes reading a much more complex activity than it would have initially seemed to be since a single book can activate at different times almost every single part of the brain and trigger neuronal networks responsible for things that would seem completely unrelated at first.
Reading rewires the brain
Saying that reading rewires your brain may sound like an overstatement, but it is not. Brain tissue can be altered in positive ways through reading, according to a 2009 study conducted by Timothy Keller and Marcel Just.
This is how reading rewires your brain: by increasing connectivity and constantly creating new neuronal connections and networks, it forces the brain to generate additional white matter to accommodate the rewiring process. This improves the health of the brain, and just as it happens with muscles through exercise, reading helps increase the brain tissue, making it bigger and stronger.
Reading improves memory
By constantly providing your brain with a nice workout, reading can also improve the amount of information you are able to memorize and the speed at which you will be able to recall it when needed.
The always-increasing number of neuronal connections and networks create a mesh within the brain, making the processes of memorization and information recalling a lot more effective. Not only that, but as I mentioned above, reading also has a beneficial effect in preventing or delaying the onset of age-induced cognitive decline, which also means that we are going to be able to successfully use our memories for longer in life.
Since we are dedicated to providing you all the necessary information about reading and its benefits, we also extensively explored how reading can improve your memory.
Reading boosts attention span
Living in the fast-paced environment surrounding us today and getting used to absorbing information through bite-size increments as provided by social media or online articles, our attention span seems to have taken a hit in the past decades.
Studies have shown that reading activates certain parts of the brain (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex if you want to get technical) that are directly responsible for our ability to focus and the size of our attention span. By activating these areas, reading improves our ability to concentrate on things that matter, for longer.
How to get the most out of your reading with Basmo
Now that the importance of reading for our brain health is clear, the only natural thing to wonder is how we can fully take advantage of the positive effects of reading. The best thing to do is to start using a reading tracking app like Basmo. There are many ways in which a reading app can improve the experience. Here are some of them.
Basmo will help you develop healthy reading habits
Since most of the studies I quoted above suggest that the benefits of reading for our brain health are somewhat conditioned by daily reading sessions, we took that seriously here at Basmo. Our reading tracking app incorporates a couple of features that will help you overcome the issues caused by your stressful day-to-day life and focus on developing healthy reading habits:
Basmo encourages you to set a clear schedule for your reading sessions and provides you with the right tool to do it. You can select the days of the week when you want to read and different times of day for each. You will also be reminded of upcoming reading sessions through gentle notifications
Here at Basmo, we understood a long time ago how important it is for readers to have clear and easy-to-edit TBR lists. That way, no time gets wasted between books.
Basmo allows you to create countless reading lists, personalize them however you see fit (so you can even categorize them by author, genre, or reading purpose), and easily edit them.
You can use Basmo for deep reading sessions
Deep reading, or close reading is the process of reading something with a clear intent to completely understand and memorize the material. This process is, of course, a much more complex exercise for your brain and it will considerably enhance the effects reading has on our brain’s health and performance. Here’s how Basmo can help:
A reading session with a clear intent to comprehend and memorize usually means taking notes while reading. The app we provide will make this process a lot smoother and more efficient.
You can simply open the app while a reading session is ongoing and start typing whatever you think is important to remember. The notes can be edited and formatted however you see fit so you can make them easier to understand and organize.
Keep a reading journal
A reading journal can consist of whatever you find interesting or important in regards to your reading. You can jot down your impressions, expand on certain topics you found interesting, and write your opinions about the ideas you read about. This activity also involves more parts of your brain than regular reading, so the benefits receive another boost.
Basmo encourages mindful reading
Mindful reading is going to boost your reading habits and the positive effects it has on your brain. We know all about mindful reading here at Basmo, so we incorporated a couple of interesting features to keep you constantly aware of your reading and your performance.
Reading mindfully means knowing exactly what you’re looking to achieve. That is why the Basmo app comes with a goal-setting feature that allows you to set daily or yearly goals for your reading habits and also encourages you to constantly track your progress towards meeting them.
There’s a lot for you to gain from a good understanding of your performance as a reader. Basmo tracks a lot of parameters to give you a clear idea about your reading habits, like reading speed, time spent reading, books or pages read, etc. These reports will provide you with a good starting point for improving your reading.
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So, what does reading do to your brain? Does reading help your brain?
It basically gives it a nice workout, ensuring that it is always in great shape, functioning, and developing properly. It alters its very wiring and chemical composition, making it stronger and better performing.
The importance of reading has been proven by countless studies, and here at Basmo we believe that certain benefits are yet to be discovered. To make the best of your reading sessions and to take full advantage of its known and yet unknown benefits, Basmo can help you become the reader you always wanted to be.