Impact of Poetry on the Brain

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Researchers reveal how a poetic experience occurs and what it looks like, according to a new study published in May 2017.

A team of researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics collaborated with a team at other German and Norwegian universities to find the impacts of poetry on the human brain.

Female German speakers aged between 20-27 years were asked to participate in the study. Some were frequent poetry readers, and some novices. They were made to listen to poetry read out loud, while they were also allowed to choose a poetry of their choice from authors, including William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The heart rate and facial expressions of the listeners were recorded via a goosecam, while they were listening to the poetry. Participants were asked to press a button and hold it for as long as they felt internal chills on listening to the poetry.

The end result revealed that every participant experienced chills at some point during the process, and around 40 percent showed visible goose bumps. This is similar to the response people give on listening to music and film soundtracks or watching emotional scenes in movies. Neurological responses, however, were recorded to be unique to poetry scans, as it activated other areas of the brain that were not while watching movies or listening to movies.

Poetry pleasure was found to be a slow-building experience, and people react differently to poetry, with more emotions and feelings involved.

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