Scientists at the University of Exeter have found that poetry arouses the same regions of the brain as those that respond to music.
In research published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, the team found activity in a “reading network” of brain areas which was activated in response to any written material. But they also found that more emotionally charged writing aroused several of the regions in the brain which respond to music. These areas, predominantly on the right side of the brain, had previously been shown as to give rise to the “shivers down the spine” caused by an emotional reaction to music. . When volunteers read one of their favourite passages of poetry, the team found that areas of the brain associated with memory were stimulated more strongly than ‘reading areas’, indicating that reading a favourite passage is a kind of recollection. In a specific comparison between poetry and prose, the team found evidence that poetry activates brain areas, such as the posterior cingulate cortex and medial temporal lobes, which have been linked to introspection.