“Book readers experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers…findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.”*

Reading is an activity that has been well-documented to supporting cognitive health. Like doing crossword puzzles or playing a musical instrument, reading is a habit that brain health experts always recommend people to do keep their mind sharp.

Does the increasingly popular choice of listening to an audio book have the same benefit as reading a printed version of the book? 

When it comes to the reading versus listening debate, neuroscientist and Biohack Your Brain author Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D. notes: “A consistent reading practice strengthens your ability to communicate and will improve your vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills while enhancing brain network connectivity. Reading has been shown to promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that lead to greater longevity.”

Dr. Willeumier explains, “The brain is differentially activated when processing speech versus print.” She notes that understanding what you’re reading activates the left brain (in areas associated with language processing), while understanding what you’re listening to activates both (in order to process speech and acoustics).

“With that said, semantic processing of the information occurs in the same cortical areas, whether the input is from reading a text or listening to an audiobook,” Dr. Willeumier adds. “Both formats engage multiple brain networks, and while the inputs—visual versus audio—may differentially activate the brain, semantic processing occurs in the same cortical areas.”

Whether you favor audiobooks or physical books, either way you’re doing something that’s good for your brain, according to Dr. Willeumier  

Isn’t it fantastic to know that simply indulging in the pleasure of reading a good book will help keep your mind sharp and give you more days in your life? 

As Mary Oliver penned in her poem “A Summer Day,” 

“…Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

* National Library of Medicine (Bavishi, Slade, and Levy) 

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