Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shakespeare On The Brain (Again)

For many of us this may be just one of those things that's so obvious because we're living it, but the neuroscientists are at it again and tell us that reading Shakespeare gives your brain a special little buzz that might actually make you smarter.

I say again because we were on the scene back in 2006 when the first major entry in this genre, Shakespeare Thinking, was released. Of course back then I was just getting started and didn't get too much discussion going, so maybe we can change that now.

The general idea makes sense. Language has pattern, and structure. Your brain gets into a sort of auto-pilot, knowing without knowing what is coming next. So when sideways everything Shakespeare twists, up your neurons sit and notice take. Do it badly, of course, as I've done quickly here :), and like Master Yoda do you sound.

I'll admit I don't fully grok what the new research is all about - it all looks about the same to me as it did 5 years ago. But everybody's talking about it this week (probably not a coincidence that it's Shakespeare's birthday week and we all need content), so I'm open to opening up the discussion again.


Giulia said...

Well, I'm not totally aware of the research yet, but I believe it makes sense. Reading is already a good exercise for the brain, and reading Shakespeare is like a plus exercise, since is archaic english and, like you said, twists. The themes can be also complex and makes our minds imagine what will happen next. But, honestly, I don't think just Shakespeare does that. Some other novels would have a similar effect. Is almost like those researches that prove that hearing classical music (Bach, Beethoven...) has a strong power over our brains. Some say it even regenerate neurons.

Christian H said...

Giulia, " But, honestly, I don't think just Shakespeare does that.": I must agree. It's interesting that you talk about classical music. That's called the Mozart effect because the folks who discovered it thought it was specifically Mozart's music that did it. Later it was discovered that a lot of music (not just classical) has that effect. (All music has some effect, but there's the possibility that different styles have different effects.) Similarly, we likely shouldn't get overly excited about a "Shakespeare effect"; it's likely a "challenging reading effect."

Giulia said...

Exactly, Christian. Some say Heavy Metal helps with math exercises. Of course it seems weirds at the first look, since it's a strong, fast melody, but who knows how it really helps our neurons?!
It's good to know that reading Shakespeare has great effects on us, but it's naive to think that's exclusive to his plays.