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William Shakespeare’s prose rocket-boosts the brain, study finds

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William ShakespeareA new study found that William Shakespeare’s prose is best when it comes to boosting your ego. The study led by researchers at the University of Liverpool found that reading complicated prose and poetry enhances a person’s brain activity. Academics saw that whenever a person came across an unsusual word or a complicated sentence structure the brain ‘lit up’. 

As The Daily Mail reports, the classics were better than self-help books in building self-esteem and giving a ‘rocket-boost’ to the brain. It was also found that poetry increases the brain’s right hemisphere’s activity, which is the area where the ‘autobigraphical memory’ is stored.

Philip Davis, an English professor who took part in the research, told The Daily Mail:

Serious literature acts like a rocket-booster to the brain. The research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid alike.’

Thirty volunteers took part in the study and the line from King Lear: ‘ A father and a gracious aged man: him have you madded’ sparked more brain activity than when reading the simpler version. The unfamiliar use of the word ‘mad’ had forced readers to concentrate more.

The study then went on to analyze the the effect of poetry. Volunteers were given four lines from a William Wordsworth poem. The Daily Mail reports:

Volunteers’ brains were scanned while reading four lines by Wordsworth:  She lived unknown and few could know, when Lucy ceased to be. But she is in her grave and oh, the difference to me. The first version caused a greater degree of brain activity, lighting up not only the left part of the brain concerned with language, but also the right hemisphere that relates to autobiographical memory and emotion.

The next part of the study will analyze how the brain reacts reading Charles Dickens.

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