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View Full Version : Long Term MRI of People Reading Stories... (Moved: Novels to Roundtable)



badducky
02-19-2009, 02:06 AM
Follow this link to a fascinating article:

http://record.wustl.edu/tips/page/normal/13383.html




Readers build vivid mental simulations of narrative situations, brain scans suggest
http://news-info.wustl.edu/images/spacer.gif
By Gerry Everding
http://record.wustl.edu/images/spacer.gif
A new brain-imaging study is shedding light on what it means to "get lost" in a good book suggesting that readers create vivid mental simulations of the sounds, sights, tastes and movements described in a textual narrative while simultaneously activating brain regions used to process similar experiences in real life.
"Psychologists and neuroscientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that when we read a story and really understand it, we create a mental simulation of the events described by the story," said Jeffrey M. Zacks, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and of radiology in the School of Medicine, director of the Dynamic Cognition Laboratory in the Department of Psychology and a co-author of the study.

icerose
02-19-2009, 02:45 AM
It's sad they had to spend money and time figuring that one out...

badducky
02-19-2009, 02:53 AM
I'm glad they did. Next step? Direct-to-brain-holographic stories!

(Am I the only one thinking about William Gibson's "Winter Market"?)

Shweta
02-19-2009, 04:20 AM
Cool, neuroimaging data for it.
*snatches for diss*
(Fun side note: This is almost exactly the study I wanted to do six years ago, that I couldn't get the psych folks to agree to. They thought going with a full story was overkill and random sentences would do just fine (false!) and make for a more powerful experimental design (true but useless!). What happened was that you didn't get people thinking about one particular type of action long enough or vividly enough, and the study failed to find an effect. Adventures In Science. I'm just glad someone else did it.)

I posit that direct to brain won't have the same effect, Ducky -- the reason people do vivid simulation is because the words make 'em work for it. I've analyzed this a bit wrt different tellings of the Midas story; I think you get simulation when the telling provides rich sensory details that trigger imagery, but leave out causal links and scene completion so the reader has to do all that work themselves. Thus an immersive experience.

A direct to brain story would work a lot more like a movie -- richer in some ways but leaving out a lot of what makes some people go back to books :)

Anyway, I'm going to throw in a writing question before porting to the Roundtable -- does seeing words as cues to evoke vivid mental images in readers change how you think about writing? It changed how I write a great deal.

badducky
02-19-2009, 09:39 PM
I think the next step, Shweta, is comparing "read" stories with "heard" stories. Does Audio wordplay work the same as Visual wordplay.

Then, we can prove there's no such thing as genre by comparing the way people "read" different genres.

Then, we can try to blast the brain with story directly, with magnetic waves. Sure, the first few folks will risk having brains blasted to gelatinous goo, and get their memories and instincts really f-ed up, but their sacrifice will make it possible for the kind of virtual reality creation that could make every pair of glasses a holodeck!

Imagine, being able to plug the brain directly into the internet... Which would actually suck. But, it would still be cool to be able to do it!

tehuti88
02-19-2009, 09:44 PM
"Psychologists and neuroscientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that when we read a story and really understand it, we create a mental simulation of the events described by the story"

Well...I could've told them that! :o I'm rather surprised it's considered news...

But I'm referring only to the way it's stated as a "discovery," not to any of the scientific stuff referenced. It's good to look for the scientific basis behind something. I just wonder why the way it's phrased makes it seem like such a surprise that readers do this.

Ah well.

I want a machine that can transcribe my dreams without losing any of the weird details. So tedious trying to remember everything in order! One for stories would be good too, but then it would take all the work out of writing, and what would be the point of that?

Shweta
02-20-2009, 01:46 AM
I think the next step, Shweta, is comparing "read" stories with "heard" stories. Does Audio wordplay work the same as Visual wordplay.

Problem here is twofold. One part is that primary auditory cortex affects parts of parietal lobe that the study's looking at. So there would possibly be a confound, though that might actually be the effect, I'm not sure.

Second part is much simpler -- you know how most speakers work, with an electromagnet interacting with a permanent magnet? That's also how MRIs work, sort of. Except the MRI magnet is a whole lot bigger :)
So that means the technical problem of getting audio data to MRI subjects is a big pain in the neck.

Which isn't to say it isn't solved; I think Mr Shweta knows people doing it. But it's annoying enough that only the people who are really interested in auditory processing are bothering, as far as I know.


Then, we can prove there's no such thing as genre by comparing the way people "read" different genres.
Not with MRIs you can't.


Then, we can try to blast the brain with story directly, with magnetic waves.

That would be TMS :)



"Psychologists and neuroscientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that when we read a story and really understand it, we create a mental simulation of the events described by the story"

Well...I could've told them that! :o I'm rather surprised it's considered news...

You underestimate us. See, a lot of psychologists (and linguists and philosophers and...) buy into the whole "Mind is a computer" thing, and think we function in terms of propositional logic. This is an interesting discovery mostly because it's evidence against that, and "duh" is not considered an acceptable scientific argument, not because there isn't a group of people in the field going "Well. yeah." :D