Words, Your Brain and Sex


Naked readingOne of the reasons I’m a dedicated librocubularist* can be found in a story on IFL Science that is headlined, “Learning New Words Activates The Same Brain Regions As Sex And Drugs.” It opens:

While it doesn’t get much better than sex and drugs for many out there, new research has found that simply learning a new word can spark up the same reward circuits in the brain that are activated during pleasurable activities such as these. No wonder there are so many bookworms and scrabble addicts out there.

So nothing like a good, brisk read through the Compact English to get in the mood, eh? Get all purfled from the effort of learning new words. While you groak your snoutfair mate and suggest she festinate her reading while she tells you to be testudineous while she deliciates her words…

The actual article this story draws from doesn’t exactly say that learning new words is the same as sex or drugs. What it says is that learning them lights up the regions of the brain that kicks into play when it wants to reward you. At least it works on people who were being studied under MRIs, not necessary those in libraries or bookstores. Don’t go ecstasiated over it, yet.

It does the same thing for gambling, although I have to admit for this unrepentant mumpsimus, my own reward-centre connection for learning kicks a much more powerful punch than that for gambling. It’s a burden I bajulate well, though.

It’s not like you’re going get stoned or have an orgasm from learning a new word. Were that true, librarians would have to lock up dictionaries and bookstores move them to their ‘adult’ section. Preachers would encourage parents to sophronize their children against Scrabble and bibliophiles would host scurrilous orgy-like pannychises. And if your significant other gets a bit acrasial, you might hand them a thesaurus to get their spirits (and libido) up.

The story continues:

During both word learning and gambling, participants exhibited activity in the ventral striatum, which is a core area involved in reward and motivation. This same region is activated during a wide range of pleasurable activities, such as eating great food, having sex and taking drugs. During word learning activities, synchronization between the cortical language regions and the ventral striatum was also increased. Furthermore, those with better connections between these two circuits were found to be able to learn more words than those with weaker links.

Yet clearly there is a relationship between language and sex. Some words make us blush, some arouse us, some make us titter. Our brains form images, create associations.

Reading can be sexy in other ways, too, as in the The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society (according to the Huffington Post, one of New York City’s most talked-about literary groups….). In a similar vein, the Village Voice ran an article about a New York City event of “Naked Ladies Reading Banned Books.” Apparently no hochle involved: just reading without clothing, so no need to scuddle down to New York just yet.

Maybe you think it’s just New York, but a Daily Mail story says there are branches of a Naked Girls Reading group in the UK, South Africa and Australia. Wonder how long it will take to get one here? I could start one but without giglets, I’m afraid it would only be nuncupatory. And If I tried to do it myself, I might be a trifle too ludibrious to carry it off; people would likely obambulate quickly, seeing my less-than-goluptious body.

This is all very gaudiloquent, but of course you have to like to read in the first place, otherwise it’s all a ficulnean issue. And reading – literacy itself – seems to be on the decline. However, my lubency to explore this unfulfremed matter further is extended by this research. I hope it won’t leave me feeling too ramfeezled.

* Sources for the words in this post with which you may not be familiar include but the learning of which should be rewarding:

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