SINAPSIS

Des mots et des mondes: le cerveau littéraire

From words to worlds: The literary brain

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SINAPSIS, Episode 5 - From words to worlds: The literary brain

Through a series of black marks on a paper sheet or a screen, literature manages to build entire universes. Reading a book can transport us to other times, show us unknown places and introduce ourselves to characters we will never come across in real life. Further than that, it can make us experience the feelings of characters that exist only within its pages. How is this possible? What happens in our brain when we sit down to read a book?

Neuroscience and literature have more than one meeting point. Understanding how our brain processes language opens doors to understand the evocative power of literature, and the study of fiction offers us a platform to study the way in which language reproduces different aspects of the world, generating new forms of understanding others, but also new ways of conceiving ourselves. In this episode of SINAPSIS, Dr. Fernanda Pérez Gay will share with us many of the fascinating neural processes linked to literature: from the classic brain circuits for language production and comprehension to the workings of the brain systems in charge of emotional responses and social cognition, passing through the complex brain networks through which word meaning is stored and retrieved. We will also explore the links between neuroscience and poetry with multi-disciplinary artist Rocío Cerón.

Literature represents a form of indirect communication between two brains: that of the writer, which transforms images, memories, sensations and emotions into words, and that of the reader, in whom each word, phrase and story resonate between neural connections to retransform into images, emotions, thoughts and memories.  At a time when technological advances and the speed of information seem to displace the old habit of sitting down to read a novel, a book of short stories or poems, we invite you to join us in this journey towards the scientific evidence that highlights the benefits of reading literature.

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In México, SINAPSIS, Conexiones entre el art y tu cerebro, has been possible thanks to the generous support of the Secretaria de Cultura del Gobierno de México and their Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes FONCA.
 

In Canada, SINAPSIS, Connections between art and your brain / Connexions entre l'art et votre cerveau, is possible thanks to the support of the Centre de recherche en éthique - CRÉ, the support and generous economical contribution of the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ & FRQSC), the ACT Programa Arte, Ciencia, y Tecnologías, and The Convergence Initiative.

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SINAPSIS, Reference Episode 5

Science Communication Books about the Literary Brain

  1. -Flaherty, A. “The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain”. Mariner Books, 2005.

  2. -Dehaene, S. “The Reading Brain”. Penguin Books, 2010.

  3. -Holyoak, K.L. “The spider’s thread: Metaphor in Brain, Mind and Poetry”. MIT press, 2019.

Fiction and Mindreading

  1. Kucirkova, N. (2019). How Could Children’s Storybooks Promote Empathy? A Conceptual Framework Based on Developmental Psychology and Literary Theory. Frontiers in Psychology  10, 121. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00121/full#B46

  2. Mar, R. A. (2018). Evaluating whether stories can promote social cognition: introducing the Social Processes and Content Entrained by Narrative (SPaCEN) framework. Discourse Process. 55, 454–479. doi: 10.1080/0163853X.2018.1448209 https://sci-hub.se/10.1080/0163853X.2018.1448209

  3. Horst, J. S., and Houston-Price, C. (2015). An open book: what and how young children learn from picture and storybooks. Frontiers in Psychology. 6:1719. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01719

  4. Comer Kidd, D. & and Castano, E. (2013). Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. Science 342, 377. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377

  5. Mar, R (2011). The Neural Bases of Social Cognition and Story Comprehension. Annual Review of Psychology 62:1, 103-134 https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-psych-120709-145406

  6. Mar, R., Oatley, K. & Peterson, J.B. (2009) Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy: Ruling out individual differences and examining outcomes. Communications 34, 407-428. https://www.yorku.ca/mar/Mar%20et%20al%202009_reading%20fiction%20and%20empathy.pdf

 

Literature, meaning and mental simulation

  1. S. Lacey, R. Stilla and K. Sathian. (2012). Metaphorically Feeling: Comprehending Textural Metaphors Activates Somatosensory Cortex. Brain & Language.

  2. Boulenger, V., Hauk, O., & Pulvermüller, F. (2009). Grasping ideas with the motor system: Semantic somatotropy in idiom comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 19, 1905-1914.

  3. Pérez-Gay Juárez, F., Labrecque, D., Frak, V. (2019). Assessing language-induced motor activity through Event Related Potentials and the Grip Force Sensor, an exploratory study. Brain and Cognition 135. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278262618303415

  4. González, J, Barros-Loscertales A., Pulvermüller F., Meseguer V., Sanjuán, A., Belloch V., Ávila C. (2006) Reading cinnamon activates olfactory brain regions. Neuroimage 15; 32(2): 906-912.

  5. Borghesani, V., Piazza, M. (2017). The neuro-cognitive representations of symbols: the case of concrete words, Neuropsychologia, 105, 4-17, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028393217302397

  6. Paul, A.M. (2012). Your brain on fiction. New York Times, Sunday Review section, March 17, p. 6. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-on-fiction.html

  7. Oatley, Keith (2012). The imagined and the Real. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-psychology-fiction/201204/the-imagined-and-the-real

 

Brain and Poetry

  1. Wolkin, Jennifer. This is your Brain on Poetry (2018). Thrive global. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/this-is-your-brain-on-poetry/

  2. Poetry is like music to the mind. (2013)  Neuroscience News. https://neurosciencenews.com/neuroimaging-brain-mapping-poetry-489/

  3. Zeman, A., Milton, F., Smith, A. & Rylance, R,. (2015). By Heart, an fMRI study of Brain Activation by Poetry and Prose. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 20 (9-10), 132-158.

  4. Vaughan-Evans, A., Trefor, R., Jones, L., Lynch, P., Jones, M. W., & Thierry, G. (2016). Implicit Detection of Poetic Harmony by the Naïve Brain. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1859. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01859 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122823/

 

More on the benefits of reading fiction

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-athletes-way/201401/reading-fiction-improves-brain-connectivity-and-function

  2. http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html

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SINAPSIS, Épisode 5 - Des mots et des mondes : le cerveau littéraire

C'est une série de signes noirs sur une feuille de papier ou un écran, et ce sont des univers au complet :  la littérature nous transporte dans d'autres époques, nous fait découvrir des lieux inconnus, nous présente des personnages que nous ne rencontrerons jamais dans la vraie vie, nous fait vivre des aventures, compatir à des tragédies et partager les sentiments des autres. Comment tout cela est-il possible? Que se passe-t-il dans notre cerveau lorsque nous lisons un livre?

Les neurosciences et la littérature ont de nombreux points de convergence. Comprendre comme notre cerveau traite le langage nous donne les outils pour comprendre le pouvoir évocateur de la littérature; à son tour, l'étude de la fiction nous offre une plateforme pour comprendre comment le langage reproduit divers aspects du monde, créant au passage de nouvelles manières de nous connecter aux autres, mais aussi de nous concevoir nous-mêmes.  Dans cet épisode de SINAPSIS, Fernanda Pérez Gay partagera avec nous quelques processus neuronaux fascinants liés à la littérature: dès les circuits cérébraux classiques pour la production et la compréhension du langage au fonctionnement des réseaux liés à nos réponses émotionnelles et à l'interaction sociale en passant pour ceux, complexes, qui nous permettent d'entreposer le sens des mots dans notre cerveau et d'y puiser ensuite au besoin. En plus, nous explorerons les liens entre neurosciences et poésie avec l'artiste multidisciplinaire Rocío Cerón.

La littérature nous révèle une forme de communication indirecte entre deux cerveaux : celui de l'auteur, qui transforme des images, des souvenir, des sensations et des émotions en mots, et celui du lecteur, où chaque mot, phrase et histoire résonne parmi les connexions neuronales pour se transformer de nouveau en images, émotions, pensées et souvenirs. À une époque où les avancées technologiques et la rapidité de l'information paraissent supplanter l'habitude vieillotte de s'asseoir pour lire un roman, on vous invite à nous accompagner dans ce voyage qui explore des preuves scientifiques pour défendre les bénéfices de la littérature et de la fiction.

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Au Mexique, SINAPSIS, Conexiones entre el art y tu cerebro, a été possible grâce au généreux soutien du Secretaria de Cultura del Gobierno de México et de leur Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes FONCA.


Au Canada, SINAPSIS, Connexions entre l'art et votre cerveau / Connexions entre l'art et votre cerveau, est possible grâce au soutien du Centre de recherche en éthique - CRÉ, au soutien et à la généreuse contribution économique du Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ & FRQSC), l'ACT Programa Arte, Ciencia, y Tecnologías, et L'Initiative Convergence.

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SINAPSIS, Référence pour l'épisode 5

Livres de vulgarization scientifique sur le sujet

  1. Flaherty, A. “The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain”. Mariner Books, 2005.

  2. Dehaene, S. “Les neurons de la lecture”. Odile Jacob, 2007.

  3. Holyoak, K.L. “The spider’s thread: Metaphor in Brain, Mind and Poetry”. MIT press, 2019.

Fiction et mentalisation

  1. Kucirkova, N. (2019). How Could Children’s Storybooks Promote Empathy? A Conceptual Framework Based on Developmental Psychology and Literary Theory. Frontiers in Psychology  10, 121. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00121/full#B46

  2. Mar, R. A. (2018). Evaluating whether stories can promote social cognition: introducing the Social Processes and Content Entrained by Narrative (SPaCEN) framework. Discourse Process. 55, 454–479. doi: 10.1080/0163853X.2018.1448209 https://sci-hub.se/10.1080/0163853X.2018.1448209

  3. Horst, J. S., and Houston-Price, C. (2015). An open book: what and how young children learn from picture and story books. Frontiers in Psychology. 6:1719. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01719

  4. Comer Kidd, D. & and Castano, E. (2013). Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. Science 342, 377. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377

  5. Mar, R (2011). The Neural Bases of Social Cognition and Story Comprehension. Annual Review of Psychology 62:1, 103-134 https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-psych-120709-145406

  6. Mar, R., Oatley, K. & Peterson, J.B. (2009) Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy: Ruling out individual differences and examining outcomes. Communications 34, 407-428. https://www.yorku.ca/mar/Mar%20et%20al%202009_reading%20fiction%20and%20empathy.pdf

 

Littérature et simulations cérébrales

  1. S. Lacey, R. Stilla and K. Sathian. (2012). Metaphorically Feeling: Comprehending Textural Metaphors Activates Somatosensory Cortex. Brain & Language.

  2. Boulenger, V., Hauk, O., & Pulvermüller, F. (2009). Grasping ideas with the motor system: Semantic somatotropy in idiom comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 19, 1905-1914.

  3. Pérez-Gay Juárez, F., Labrecque, D., Frak, V. (2019). Assessing language-induced motor activity through Event Related Potentials and the Grip Force Sensor, an exploratory study. Brain and Cognition 135. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278262618303415

  4. González, J, Barros-Loscertales A., Pulvermüller F., Meseguer V., Sanjuán, A., Belloch V., Ávila C. (2006) Reading cinnamon activates olfactory brain regions. Neuroimage 15; 32(2): 906-912.

  5. Borghesani, V., Piazza, M. (2017). The neuro-cognitive representations of symbols: the case of concrete words, Neuropsychologia, 105, 4-17, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028393217302397

  6. Paul, A.M. (2012). Your brain on fiction. New York Times, Sunday Review section, March 17, p. 6. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-on-fiction.html

  7. Oatley, Keith (2012). The imagined and the Real. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-psychology-fiction/201204/the-imagined-and-the-real

 

Le cerveau et la poésie

  1. Wolkin, Jennifer. This is your Brain on Poetry (2018). Thrive global. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/this-is-your-brain-on-poetry/

  2. Poetry is like music to the mind. (2013)  Neuroscience News. https://neurosciencenews.com/neuroimaging-brain-mapping-poetry-489/

  3. Zeman, A., Milton, F., Smith, A. & Rylance, R,. (2015). By Heart, an fMRI study of Brain Activation by Poetry and Prose. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 20 (9-10), 132-158.

  4. Vaughan-Evans, A., Trefor, R., Jones, L., Lynch, P., Jones, M. W., & Thierry, G. (2016). Implicit Detection of Poetic Harmony by the Naïve Brain. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1859. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01859 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122823/

 

Plus sur les bénéfices de lire de la fiction

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-athletes-way/201401/reading-fiction-improves-brain-connectivity-and-function

  2. http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html

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