It is a wonderful thing when science confirms what librarians and book lovers seem to know instinctually. In March, a New York Times article noted research being done in the field of neuroscience about the effect that reading fiction novels has on the brain. See “Your Brain on Fiction”.

When we read stories with detailed descriptions, metaphors, and sensory words, beyond the language parts of our brains, other parts are reacting the same as they do during an actual experience, which is why some writing feels so alive. For example, reading words like lavender or cinnamon can evoke the same response in the parts of our brains that understand smells. Reading an emotional exchange between characters can affect the same areas of our brains as if we were doing the interacting. Particularly textural metaphors activate the sensory cortex, so that descriptive phrases using words that have touch meaning for us, like leathery hands or a velvety voice, makes our brains more active, more involved in what we are reading.
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