Phillips said the global increase in blood flow during close reading
suggests that "paying attention to literary texts requires the
coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions." Blood flow also
increased during pleasure reading, but in different areas of the brain.
Phillips suggested that each style of reading may create distinct
patterns in the brain that are "far more complex than just work and
After reviewing early scans, neuroscientist Bob Dougherty, research
director of CNI, said he was impressed by "how the right patterns of ink
on a page can create vivid mental imagery and instill powerful
With the field of literary neuroscience in its infancy, Phillips said
this project is helping to demonstrate the potential that
neuroscientific tools have to "give us a bigger, richer picture of how
our minds engage with art – or, in our case, of the complex experience
we know as literary reading."