A story is worth a thousand pictures

Ever wondered how a story works on the brain?

Let’s slip on our white lab coats and ask participants to read some stories while their brains are being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. Let’s get an inside look at the science of how story affects the brain.

  1. Cortex Activity Increase - When processing facts, only two areas of the brain related to speech are activated (Broca’s and Wernicke’s). A well-told story can engage many additional areas, including the frontal cortex, motor cortex and sensory cortex. Reading a word like coffee is enough to trigger the primary olfactory cortex.
  2. Dopamine Release - The brain release dopamine when it experiences an emotionally-charged story, making it easier to remember and with greater accuracy. Emotions outweigh facts.
  3. Neural Coupling - A story activates parts in the brain that allow people to turn the story into their own ideas and experiences. People become the story.

The brain doesn’t make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life. Either way, the same neurological regions are stimulated.

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