Friday, July 12, 2013

Lifelong Reading Is Good for Your Brain (and Other Awesome News)

by Sara N.

Well, hello, halfway point in our 52-book challenge! (For the record, I'm at 33, plus six audiobooks.)

Those who are participating, or simply reading without keeping track, here's good incentive to make this a lifelong habit: Scientists have found that people who read on a regular basis can slow the progress of dementia later in life.

According to a recent Neurology article, patients who participated in cognitive activities, such as reading, writing and playing games, experienced slower cognitive decline. Interestingly, the scientists found that cognitive activity in childhood and middle age were attributed to slowing dementia, but cognitive activity in young adulthood had no statistical association. I'm using these findings to justify my reading of YA literature as an adult. I mean, it wouldn't have done me any good when I was an obnoxious youngster. (Although I strenuously reject the idea that I'm anywhere near middle age.)

Other interesting book news:

NPR Books recently looked at research on how our personalities affect our reading choices. The studies found that extroverts and people who scored high on agreeableness were more likely to gravitate toward "people-focused" reading, such as romance novels and celebrity news. So-called "dark entertainment," such as horror and erotica, draws extroverts, people who scored low on conscientiousness (which is a measure of planning and self-discipline), and people who scored high on openness to experience. Those scoring high on conscientiousness read more science topics and current events news. As a disorganized, agreeable extrovert, I must say my bookshelves, groaning under the weight of "dark entertainment" and romance novels, fall very much along these lines. How about you?

(Mass communication research side-note: The uses and gratifications theory states that people choose the media they consume to satisfy certain psychological needs, such as relaxation, social interaction, and information-seeking. Personality type is one of the dimensions researchers have examined as they look at how people use the news and entertainment media they consume.)


Salon reported last month on the increasing popularity of certain baby names based on books, TV series, and movies. For example, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones has prompted an increase in baby girls named Arya and Khaleesi over the last two years. They're still not hugely popular (Arya was name No. 413 in 2012, and 146 girls were named Khaleesi last year), but that's a big jump over the statistical nothing that they were prior to the TV series.

Twilight's still going strong. Isabella and Jacob are consistently in the top 10 baby names, and Cullen, Jasper, Emmett, Esme, and Alice, while not hitting the top 10, have also increased in popularity. Also, the name Dexter jumped from No. 715 in 2008 to No. 362 in 2012, and Sookie (as in Stackhouse) had one of the biggest gains in 2010. (Let's not dwell on the fact that a couple of names from Teen Mom also jumped in popularity; I want to keep my faith in humanity a little longer.)


This isn't book news, but it is both baffling and awesome. Two U.S. representatives have introduced a bill that would extend the national park system to the moon.


Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) have introduced the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, which would designate the spots on the moon with equipment left from the American moon landings as parts of the U.S. national parks system. The sponsors say it's necessary because we're inching closer to private companies sending tourists to the moon, and this bill would protect those locations from damage. Of course, there's the little issue of the international agreement that keeps any one country from claiming territory on the moon. Still ... cool, no? Where can I sign up to be a lunar park ranger?
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