[your brain on story]

Image from the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute at the University of Alberta

This study is so fascinating. Basically, the more we read *good* stories (with a profound narrative arc), the longer the story stays with us and the deeper it affect our ability to form connections in our brain. Just fascinating. A research project I'm in the midst of crafting (and applying for funding), moves alongside this study but looks at our brains while reading born digital multimodal narratives. If these stories have a strong narrative arc (like say Inanimate Alice by Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph for children or Charles Cummings' The 21 Steps or anything from Dreaming Methods for older readers)

A novel look at how stories may change the brain

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically," says neuroscientist Gregory Berns.

By Carol Clark

Many people can recall reading at least one cherished story that they say changed their life. Now researchers at Emory University have detected what may be biological traces related to this feeling: Actual changes in the brain that linger, at least for a few days, after reading a novel.

Their findings, that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persist, were published by the journal Brain Connectivity.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory’s Center for Neuropolicy. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

His co-authors included Kristina Blaine and Brandon Pye from the Center for Neuropolicy, and Michael Prietula, professor of information systems and operations management at Emory’s Goizueta Business School.

Neurobiological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has begun to identify brain networks associated with reading stories. Most previous studies have focused on the cognitive processes involved in short stories, while subjects are actually reading them as they are in the fMRI scanner.

The Emory study focused on the lingering neural effects of reading a narrative. Twenty-one Emory undergraduates participated in the experiment, which was conducted over 19 consecutive days.

The researchers chose the novel "Pompeii" for the experiment, due to its strong narrative and page-turning plot.

All of the study subjects read the same novel, “Pompeii,” a 2003 thriller by Robert Harris that is based on the real-life eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy. “The story follows a protagonist, who is outside the city of Pompeii and notices steam and strange things happening around the volcano,” Berns says. “He tries to get back to Pompeii in time to save the woman he loves. Meanwhile, the volcano continues to bubble and nobody in the city recognizes the signs.”

The researchers chose the book due to its page-turning plot. “It depicts true events in a fictional and dramatic way,” Berns says. “It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative line.”

For the first five days, the participants came in each morning for a base-line fMRI scan of their brains in a resting state. Then they were given nine sections of the novel, about 30 pages each, over a nine-day period. They were asked to read the assigned section in the evening, and come in the following morning. After taking a quiz to ensure they had finished the assigned reading, the participants underwent an fMRI scan of their brain in a non-reading, resting state. After completing all nine sections of the novel, the participants returned for five more mornings to undergo additional scans in a resting state.

The results showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, on the mornings following the reading assignments. “Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity,” Berns says. “We call that a ‘shadow activity,’ almost like a muscle memory.”

Read any mind-altering books lately? Writer Joyce Carol Oates once cited "Alice in Wonderland" as a big influence on her imaginative life.

Heightened connectivity was also seen in the central sulcus of the brain, the primary sensory motor region of the brain. Neurons of this region have been associated with making representations of sensation for the body, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition. Just thinking about running, for instance, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” Berns says. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

The neural changes were not just immediate reactions, Berns says, since they persisted the morning after the readings, and for the five days after the participants completed the novel.

“It remains an open question how long these neural changes might last,” Berns says. “But the fact that we’re detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain.”

Credits: Top image by iStockphoto.com. Middle and bottom photos by Carol Clark. 


[call for fellows at the berkman centre at harvard]

Gosh, what a glorious opportunity!!!

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has opened its annual call for fellowship applications. This opportunity is for those who wish to spend the 2015-2016 academic year in residence in Cambridge, MA as part of Berkman's community of pioneers, and who seek to deeply engage in the collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and cross-sectoral exploration of some of the Internet's most interesting, challenging, and compelling issues.
Applications will be accepted through Friday December 12, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, and applications will be **submitted online through our Application Tracker tool at: http://brk.mn/1516app
We invite applications from folks around the globe working on a broad range of opportunities and challenges related to Internet and society, which may overlap with ongoing work at Berkman or will expose us to new opportunities and approaches. We encourage applications from a diverse group of scholars, practitioners, innovators, engineers, artists, and others committed to understanding and advancing the public interest who come from -- and have interest in -- countries industrialized or developing, with ideas, projects, or activities in all phases on a spectrum from incubation to reflection.
More information about this call for applications may be found below and at http://brk.mn/fellows1516.
More information about the Berkman Center Fellowship Program may be found at http://brk.mn/fellows.
A Fellowship Program FAQ may be found at http://brk.mn/fellowsfaq.
Through this annual open call, we seek to advance our collective work and give it new direction, and to deepen and broaden our networked community across backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, and nations.  We welcome you to read more about the program below, to share this announcement with your networks, and to apply!


[free webinar for education technology for the under grade 5 crowd]

Building Better Ed-Tech Strategies for the Pre-K-5 Crowd

This event takes place on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, 1 to 2 p.m. ET.

Using technology to improve literacy and math skills for younger students takes very different strategies and tools than are typically used for middle and high school students. Our guests will discuss the best approaches for using digital devices, apps, and software for students in preschool through 5th grade, examining issues around how to balance the use of text versus multimedia, what types of online interactivity are most effective, and when technology should be turned off.


Suzy Brooks, fourth grade teacher, Mullen-Hall School, Falmouth, Mass.

Todd Nesloney, principal, Navasota Intermediate School, Navasota, Texas


Michelle R. Davis, senior writer, Education Week/Digital Directions


[conference: #SMEM emergency response and management, norway]

Welcome to ISCRAM 2015   24-27 May   in Kristiansand, Norway.

The 12th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management


Conference theme: Getting ready for the unexpected.
Information Systems for Crisis Management in a complex and uncertain world

Conference dates: May 24-27 2015
Venue: Centre for Integrated Emergency Management / University of Agder.
Kristiansand, Norway



Long Papers: November 21st 2014 (time zone set at the international dateline, the last possible hour of that day)
Short Papers: January 30th 2015 (time zone set at the international dateline, the last possible hour of that day)

Emergencies are characterized by their ‘un-ness’‘…unexpected, unscheduled, unplanned, unprecedented and definitely unpleasant’ (Crichton 2003) – they are unexpected and unknowable in their specific unfolding. However good plans and scenarios may be, uncertainty is a defining feature in emergency events. Through this conference theme we invite Tracks and submissions focusing on the technologies, procedures, approaches, methods and tools that can be employed to improve crisis response in an increasingly complex and dynamic world. Creative and critical reflections are welcome.


ISCRAM2015 invites two categories of papers:
Long papers with a target acceptance rate of 35 % presenting completed work including a description of methods, results and validation (4,000-6,000 words).
Deadline: November 21st 2014
IMPORTANT: This is a hard deadline that will not be changed.
Short papers presenting work in earlier stages, outlining concepts and discussing first results (2,000-3,500 words)
Deadline: January 30th 2015
You are also invited to choose the review process:
  • Research papers will be reviewed according to scientific standards
  • Insight Papers are reviewed with respect to practical relevance and applicability
For each type of paper, submissions are welcome from academics, researchers, practitioners, technical or other experts, policy makers, or other professionals in the emergency management domain. The ISCRAM2015 proceedings will clearly identify the type of submission and reviewing process chosen.
If you are unsure which type of paper is best for your work, please contact the track chairs of the track you intend to submit to, or contact us directly atiscram2015.papers@iscram.org.
Other forms of contributions: separate calls are or will be made for workshops, panels (deadline: Nov 21st), posters, demonstrations, and the doctoral consortium (deadline: Jan 30th). All calls will be published on iscram2015.uia.no.


  1. Read through the calls of the individual tracks, and select the track that is closest to the topic of your paper. If you cannot decide if your paper “fits” in a specific track, message the corresponding track chair with your title and a draft abstract, for his or her advice. Contact information for track chairs are mentioned in the calls to be downloaded below.
    Or, message the program and conference chairs at iscram2015.papers@iscram.org
  2. Authors must submit papers electronically through the conference system. Click Here To Access
  3. All papers must use the ISCRAM paper template and follow the ISCRAM house style.
    Long paper template: ISCRAM2015_Conference_LongPaperTemplate
    Short paper template: ISCRAM2015_Conference_ShortPaperTemplate

Individual Call for Papers for each Track

1. Network Theorytracks_network_s8. Social Media Studiestracks_socialmedia_s
2. Analytical Modelling and Simulationtracks_analytics_s9. Community Engagementtracks_community_s
3. Planning, Foresight and Risk Analysistracks_planning_s10. Decision Support Systemtracks_decision_s
4. Ethical, Legal and Social Issuestracks_ethical_s11. Practitioner Cases And Practitioner-Centered Researchtracks_practitioner_s
5. Geospatial Data and Geographical Information Sciencetracks_geo_s12. Researching Crisis: Methodologiestracks_transdisc_s
6. Command & Control Studiestracks_command_s13. Serious Gamingtracks_games_s
7. Human Centred Design and Evaluationtracks_humancentered_s14. Understanding Collaborative Work Practicestracks_collaboration_s
15. Open Tracktracks_open_sThe Open Track invites submission that clearly addresses the theme of the ISCRAM2015 conference, but do not fit into one of the tracks.ISCRAM follows a bottom up approach to work with the best researchers in the field to establish the thematic thrust of ISCRAM conferences. These researchers organise tracks that are meant to attract competitive long and short papers. This year, we will complement this approach by inviting researchers to organise workshops in areas that are not yet covered by the tracks. (The call will soon be available on this website.)
However, this may miss paper submissions in emerging fields or research areas that are new to ISCRAM. If you would like to author such a paper, we welcome you to submit your work to the open track.

Important Dates for ISCRAM 2015 Authors

  • 21 November 2014 Long Papers & Panel Proposals deadline
  • 16 January 2015 Acceptance notification: Long Papers
  • 30 January 2015 Short Papers, Demos & Posters deadline
  • 10 February Camera ready copies of Long Papers deadline
  • 16 February Notification of acceptance for Short Papers, Demos, Posters
  • 27 February 2015 Camera ready Short Papers deadline
Submission of the camera-ready version on Feb 27 is a commitment to sending at least one author per paper to the conference. If authors are on multiple papers, the number of registrations in total must meet or exceed the number of papers per collective author group.

Conference Dates

Sunday, May 24 2015Doctoral Colloquium
Beer evening
Monday, May 25, 20151st Day of Conference
Poster Session
Welcome Reception
Tuesday, May 26 20152nd Day of Conference
ISCRAM General Assembly
Demo Session
Award Ceremony
Conference Banquet
Wednesday, May 27 2015 through to about 5 pmFinal Conference Day
Closing Session and Farewell


[citizen science conference]

February 11th-12th, San Jose, California, USA

Citizen Science 2015 is the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA), two days of building connections and exchanging ideas across a wide spectrum of disciplines and experiences. Participate and help to shape the future of citizen science!

Photo credit: Wayne MacPhailPhoto by Wayne MacPhail, PPSR 2012
Citizen Science 2015 is a pre-conference of the AAAS Annual Meeting.
AAAS logo blue cropped sides
Call for Proposals

Propose a conference presentation by 15 SEPT 2014
More details…
For updates about the Conference, considerjoining the Citizen Science Association.
Membership is currently free!