According to this article by Julia Ryan, reading fiction does great things for your brain. fMRIs performed on the participants after they read some of Pompeii by Robert Harris (excellent book, btw) revealed:
. . . heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, the area of the brain associated with receptivity for language. Heightened connectivity in other parts of the brain suggested that readers may experience “embodied semantics,” a process in which brain connectivity during a thought-about action mirrors the connectivity that occurs during the actual action. For example, thinking about swimming can trigger the some of the same neural connections as physical swimming.
I'm interpreting this to be similar to the sensations one can have when thinking of biting into a popsicle (I feel phantom cold shivers, for example.) We storytellers often talk about engaging the reader, and this study offers interesting scientific proof of that. It also suggests why some books don't work for readers -- possibly because those connections between story and mind weren't made.
What do you think about the potential effects of fiction on the brain? Do you think reading has changed your brain? Tell us in comments.
(Article link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)