What Reading Actual Books Does to Your Brain and Memory

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In this age of technology, fewer people tend to read actual books and opt instead for e-books and other digital mediums. With all the e-book reader apps floating around the internet, you can simply download a file and start reading your favourite story or subject matter.

Hold your horses though! While that might sound really easy, reading printed books still has its own merits. As a previous post on psysci tackled how writing increases your memory, today the focus will be on reading hard, tangible books as well as learning how it aids your mental well-being.

Printed books help in memory retention

 This may seem like small matter, but research has shown that many people experience a sense of progress when the pages on the left side of a book are piling up and the pages on the right side are becoming fewer. CBS News explained that this is somehow related to memory retention.

An experiment in Norway was cited as an example, wherein two groups of participants were given a reading material: one a paperback book and the other in Kindle. They were asked a series of questions afterwards and the group who read the paperback book was more able to provide plot points in chronological order.

The lead researcher, Anne Mangen, stated that “Perhaps [the turning of pages] somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”

Printed books aid people with sleep problems

It’s a known fact that many people read before going to bed. Note that it pertains to paper books and not e-readers. This is because it can help you sleep well.

On the contrary, the screen glare coming from mobile devices and laptops, which are the main mediums of reading e-books, was found to have an adverse effect on the user. Mental Floss highlighted a study from Harvard which revealed that people who read on LED screens tend to have not to sleep well and were more tired the next day.

Paper books exercise reading comprehension and concentration

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Reading comprehension is crucial, especially for students and professionals who rely on information coming from the materials they read. Reading paper books improves comprehension and concentration given that you have to digest every bit of text.

Once again, this is backed up by research. Educause Review conducted an experiment and provided an examination wherein paper readers achieved higher scores in items that measured comprehension. So if you want a better exercise for your brain, try reading actual books!

Paper readers can connect more to the story

A separate experiment was performed and the results showed that the participants who read on paper were more able to connect emotionally with the characters and the story as a whole. The Huffington Post specified that this allows them to gain a more immersive experience when reading, hence, stimulating the brain more.

There are other benefits of reading printed books, but the ones listed above are the effects related to brain function.

To be fair though, tech innovations such as e-readers also have their own advantages. Mainly, e-books are great for people on the go considering that you don’t have to carry any extra weight aside from your mobile device. Furthermore, if you want to grab a copy of a freshly released novel, you don’t have to visit a bookstore, and instead all you have to do is just tap on your smartphone or tablet a couple of times.

Other mediums that help cognitive development

Technology has also increasingly become a medium to support cognitive development in the same manner as books. In a study by The University of California, Irvine, it was found that 3D video games can enhance memory function by stimulating the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory, when the player interacts with in-game objects and environments.

Similarly, tabletop card games like poker and slots are now available to a broader audience through gaming portals. Leading gaming platform Slingo combines its games with social media which allows players to compete against their friends and challenge themselves mentally.

The way in which digital games on a whole have changed means that often they revolve around giving users small attainable targets to help with cognitive development across a series of different verticals.

These games have also been revealed to develop concentration as well as decision-making, and in an article by ZazenLife, it was explained how poker helps improve real life skills by sharpening intuition and logical thinking. Additionally, visual media such as videos and selected programs have been used by brain experts in their respective fields over the years to help aid research.

Technology has certainly aided in the research of how the brain works, and much like books, it has its own benefits. But even if tech tools like e-readers are gaining a massive following by the day, it can still be said that nothing beats the experience of reading on paper. Considering that science backs everything up, it gives us all a reason to pick a hardback book again. That’s if you ever stopped.