Reading fiction doesn’t just boost emotional intelligence, concentration, and critical thinking. It also helps prevent memory loss




Before you read

Fill in the gaps in the article excerpt with the words in bold below:

flip through       age            make time          plague          distraction

rely            workout      sift through         struck        unwind

If you’re a busy entrepreneur, sitting down with a novel might seem like nothing more than a light and enjoyable way to 1. …….. . But science suggests fiction offers our brains a lot more than just 2. ……….. and stress relief. 

Research suggests that deep, concentrated reading–the kind we do when we sink deeply into a great novel–builds key mental skills like focus and empathy as well as the ability to 3. ………. complicated information and analyze conflicting arguments. Reading doesn’t just fill our brains with images and ideas. It actually rewires how we think about them. 

All of which adds up to a good argument for why you may want to join super-achievers like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Jeff Bezos and 4. ……. more…..  for fiction in your schedule. But if you’re still struggling to make time for literature, perhaps Richard Restak, a neurologist and the author of 20 books on the brain, can convince you. Restak insists novels have one more undersung brain benefit–they also help keep our memories sharp as we 5. …… . 

Restak’s new book, The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind, is all about combating the kind of everyday memory troubles that 6. ……. most of us as we age. (…) Mind puzzles are helpful–crosswords are particularly useful, recent research found. Don’t over-7. ….. on technology. Turn that GPS off once in a while. Try to memorize your shopping list and only use notes as a backup. (…)

There is no doubt all this is solid advice, but it was Restak’s comments about reading fiction that 8. ……. me as freshest. “People, when they begin to have memory difficulties, tend to switch to reading nonfiction,” Restak observes. 

Why? Because while you can 9. ………. many nonfiction books and profitably read a chunk here and a chunk there, enjoying fiction demands extended attention and the ability to remember what happened at every stage of the story. The reveal of whodunnit on page 200 isn’t going to be much fun if you don’t recall that telling clue you overlooked in Chapter Two. That makes reading fiction a particularly powerful memory 10. … . (…)

To check your answers/read the whole article, go to: https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/a-neurologists-secret-weapon-for-keeping-your-memory-sharp-as-you-age-novels

Key: 1. unwind; 2. distraction; 3. sift through; 4. make (more) time; 5. age; 6. plague; 7. (over)-rely; 8. struck; 9. flip through; 10. workout


  • to rewire – to make lasting and usually beneficial changes to the neurological or psychological functioning of (a person or brain)
  • undersung – insufficiently valued or praised
  • whodunnit– a story about a crime and the attempt to discover who committed it


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the gaps with the verbs in brackets in the Past Simple tense (active or passive voice).

How Certain Gestures Help You Learn New Words

As Mathias and his colleagues describe in the Journal of Neuroscience, they had 22 German-speaking adults learn a total of 90 invented artificial words (such as “lamube” for “camera,” and “atesi” for “thought”) over four days. While the test subjects first 1. ……. (HEAR) the new vocabulary, they 2. ………. simultaneously (SHOW) a video of a person making a gesture that matched the meaning of the word. When the word 3. ………. (REPEAT), the subjects 4. ……… (PERFORM) the gesture themselves.

Five months later, they 5. ……….. (ASK) to translate the vocabulary they had learned into German in a multiple-choice test. At the same time, they had an apparatus attached to their heads that sent weak magnetic pulses to their primary motor cortex—the brain area that controls voluntary arm movements. When these interfering signals were active, the subjects 6. ……….. (FIND) it harder to recall the words accompanied by gestures. When the apparatus 7. …….. (SEND) no interfering signals (but still appeared to the subjects to be active), they found it easier to remember the words. The researchers concluded that the motor cortex 8. ………… (CONTRIBUTE) to the translation of the vocabulary learned with gestures. This applied to concrete words, such as “camera,” as well as abstract ones, such as “thought.”

(…) The effect 9. ………. (NOT OCCUR) when the test subjects 10. ……….. only (PRESENT) with matching pictures instead of gestures when learning vocabulary. In contrast, children—unlike adults—seem to benefit from pictures as much as gestures in the long run. (…)

In order to check your answers/read the whole article, visit: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-certain-gestures-help-you-learn-new-words

Key: 1. heard; 2. were shown; 3. was repeated; 4. performed; 5. were asked; 6. found; 7. sent; 8. contributed; 9. did not occur; 10. were (only) presented


  • Would you say you have a good memory?
  • What’s your earliest childhood memory?
  • Does it often happen to you that some things (like your friend/partner’s birthday) slip your mind?
  • What do you do to enhance your memory?
  • In what context would you use these expressions:  ”my memory plays tricks”,  ”if my memory serves me well/right/correctly”?

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Does stress affect your memory?

Explore the stages of how your memory stores information and how short-term stress impacts this process.