It seems reading the Bard’s (William Shakespeare) works can do more than satiating your quest for an invigorating read. Researchers have revealed that Shakespeare’s work excites the brain in a way that keeps it “fit”.
A team from the University of Liverpool is investigating whether wrestling with the innovative use of language could help to prevent dementia.
Monitoring participants with brain-imaging equipment, they found that certain lines from Shakespeare and other great writers such as Chaucer and Wordsworth caused the brain to spark with electrical activity because of the unusual words or sentence structure.
Referring to “functional shift” — such as when a noun is used as a verb — Philip Davis, of the university’s School of English, said that the brain reacts “in a similar way to putting a jigsaw puzzle together.
By throwing odd words into seemingly normal sentences, Shakespeare surprises the brain and catches it off-guard in a manner that produces a burst of activity — a sense of drama created out of the simplest of things.”
“When the word changes the grammar of the sentence, brain readings suddenly peak. The brain is then forced to retrace its thinking process in order to understand what it is supposed to make of this unusual word,” Professor Neil Roberts, from the university’s Magnetic Resonance and Image Analysis Research Centre, was quoted by
The researchers are now investigating which areas of the brain are most affected and the implications for maintaining healthy brain activity. Professor Davis, whose book Shakespeare Thinking is published next month, believes that reading classic literature helps children in their wider studies.