This is interesting. Psychologists Nicole Speer and Jeffrey Zacks conducted a study of reading using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Basically, these researchers used imaging technology to look at what our brains are doing while we read a story. They found that some of the same regions of the brain are active for the reader as would be active for someone actually experiencing the events in the text. In other words, our brains create simulations of what we’re reading, a virtual reality of our own making.
Reading really can take you someplace else. And it lets you experience something you otherwise might not. In some cases (historical fiction, for example), a book is the closest we can get to the real thing. This is something librarians and teachers have been telling young readers for a long time. This is something familiar to anyone who has ever been brought to tears by a book, either of laughter or grief. Anyone who has ever been brought to their feet by a character’s triumph and victory. Anyone who has ever been reluctant to turn out the light and chills at strange noises in the dark. This is something that anyone who reads can relate to.
These findings also suggest that reading about a fictional thing might actually prepare us for the real deal should we ever encounter it, providing evidence for how profound and transformative the experience of reading can be, perhaps even altering the structure of our brains in a manner similar to the way a real experience would.
Science has shown us that what we read really can become a part of who we are.