Of course, we all know in theory that reading is good for us. Now, however, researchers are proving just how good it is and how much benefit may be derived for those bookworms out there. Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield explains that reading helps to lengthen attention spans and to improve a child’s ability to think clearly.
As she explains,
“Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end – a structure that encourages our brains to think in sequence, to link cause, effect and significance. It is essential to learn this skill as a small child, while the brain has more plasticity, which is why it’s so important for parents to read to their children. The more we do it, the better we get at it.’
As John Stein, emeritus professor of neuroscience at Magdalen College, Oxford, explains, “Reading exercises the whole brain.”
A study in 2009 found that reading actually helps us to create new neural pathways, as our brains process the experiences that we read about. This does not occur from watching television, playing computer games or engaging in other passive activities.
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Another fascinating study from the University of Sussex in 2009 found that a mere six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds. They found that this amount of reading was more beneficial than listening to music or going for a walk.
Finally, one more study, from the University of California, Berkeley, that was published in the Archives of Neurology, showed that reading from a young age can actually help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. It inhibits the formation of amyloid (protein) plaques which are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. The scientists who conducted this study found that people who had been doing brain-stimulating activities like reading, playing chess, writing letters and more since the age of six showed very low levels of amyloid plaques as they aged. For those who hadn’t engaged in such activities, the plaque levels were heightened.