Poetry Shares Rewarding Brain Effects with Music

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A new study by Adam Zeman and colleagues from the University of Exeter used functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques to find that poetry, compared to prose, uniquely activates brain areas associated with introspection, such as the posterior cingulate cortex and medial temporal lobes.

The research team also found that emotionally charged words activated the same (predominantly right side) areas of the brain that register emotional responses to music, associated with shivers down the spine.

UCLA neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman has reported that putting words to feelings may help with emotion regulation.  His laboratory conducted brain scans of 30 individuals, as they described distressing pictures, and discovered that putting words to feelings reduces activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain associated with emotion and fear) and increases activity in the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for self-regulation).  They also found that the effects were greater for long-hand writing than typing.

Click here to purchase the study.
Zeman A, Milton F, Smith A, Rylance R.  By Heart An fMRI Study of Brain Activation by Poetry and Prose. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2013; 20 (9-10): 132-158(27).

Click here to view the article.
Lieberman, M. D., Eisengerger, N. I., Crockett, M. J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H., & Way, B. M. (2007). Putting feelings into words: Affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli. Psychological Science, 18(5), 421-428.

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