Reading for pleasure and reading in order to write about a text may look similar from the outside, but pulling back a few layers of brain tissue reveals a whole different story. A recent study uses the stories of Jane Austen to meld science and literature in order to tell just this story.
Dr. Natalie Phillips of Stanford University recently asked scientific subjects to have an MRI… while reading a Jane Austen novel. While you might think the point of this was to ease the tension of having an MRI in the first place, the actual reasoning was to measure brain activity during close, analytical readings of a text. When having the MRI, subjects were asked first to simply skim a section of the book as if they were reading for pleasure. Then the subjects were asked to read another section of the book analytically, knowing that after the MRI they would be required to write a short essay about what they had read. Scholars monitoring the study saw a vast increase in blood flow to parts of the brain that are usually associated with executive function, or paying close attention to a task during this latter type of reading. While blood flow increased during pleasure reading as well, the blood was concentrated in different areas of the brain. This means that reading analytically provides much more of a brain workout than simply reading for pleasure.
For more detailed information and research read the full article: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/september/austen-reading-fmri-090712.html