Monday, 16 Feb, 2009 Science

Writing Verse or Prose Helps Brain Regulate Emotions


Researchers from the University of California claim that writing poems is good for a person's mental and physical health. The process of writing a poem helps our brain to regulate emotion, and decrease the feeling of nervousness, fear and sadness.

According to the researchers, writing about personal experience has a therapeutic effect due to the fact that the process holds back parts of the brain that are related to emotional disorder, and boosts the activity in the area that deals with self-control.

It doesn't matter if a person is a good writer or not. In fact, experts suggest that the simpler a verse or prose is written, the better. Currently experts are looking forward to developing special therapies based on their discovery. The therapies could be used to treat social fears and phobias.

The lead researcher of the study is Dr Matthew Lieberman, who is a neuroscientist at the University of California. The study and its results the scientist presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science where he carried out a lecture entitled Putting Feelings Into Words. He demonstrated the effect of writing after scanning the brains of 30 patients while they characterized distressing images.

Dr Lieberman discovered that the act of writing reduced the activity in the amygdala, which is an area of the brain that is related to emotion and fear. At the same time, writing raised activity in the pre-frontal cortex, the mind's regulator. The finding suggests that a simple act of writing about an emotion represented a method of calming down the brain and recreating mental balance.

"The more frontal activity we see, the less amygdala response. There seems to be a see-saw affect," says the scientist.

Another experiment involved the action of writing used in combination with exposure therapy for people who suffer from arachnophobia (fear of spiders). Experts discovered that writing about their fears increased the effect of the therapy compared to those who did not describe their feeling on the paper.

"People expressing negative emotional responses in words while being exposed gave them greater attenuation (reduction) of fear," says Dr Lieberman. The effect of the therapy was even stronger if patients were more descriptive in their fears. In addition, the scientist mentioned that writing in long-hand proved to be more effective than typing.

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