Can Reading Jane Austen Make You Smarter?

Stanford Report, September 7, 2012

This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes

Researchers observe the brain patterns of literary PhD candidates while they’re reading a Jane Austen novel. The fMRI images suggest that literary reading provides “a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.”

The Humanities at Stanford

L.A. CiceroResearcher Natalie Phillips positions an eye-tracking device on Matt Langione.

The inside of an MRI machine might not seem like the best place to cozy up and concentrate on a good novel, but a team of researchers at Stanford are asking readers to do just that.

In an innovative interdisciplinary study, neurobiological experts, radiologists and humanities scholars are working together to explore the relationship between reading, attention and distraction – by reading Jane Austen.

Surprising preliminary results reveal a dramatic and unexpected increase in blood flow to regions of the brain beyond those responsible for “executive function,” areas which would normally be associated with paying close attention to a task, such as reading, said Natalie Phillips, the literary scholar leading the project.

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About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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6 Responses to Can Reading Jane Austen Make You Smarter?

  1. Chelsea K. says:

    This is really interesting! I wonder what made them look into to test this.

  2. JuneA** says:

    Do they need volunteers? I could use a trip to CA… excuses need to read Jane Austen! 🙂

  3. JuneA** says:


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