Bibliotherapy is a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect. The first use of the term is usually dated to a jaunty 1916 article in The Atlantic Monthly, A Literary Clinic. In it, the author describes stumbling upon a bibliopathic institute run by an acquaintance, Bagster, in the basement of his church, from where he dispenses reading recommendations with healing value. ... Today, bibliotherapy takes many different forms, from literature courses run for prison inmates to reading circles for elderly people suffering from dementia. Sometimes it can simply mean one-on-one or group sessions for lapsed readers who want to find their way back to an enjoyment of books. ... For all avid readers who have been self-medicating with great books their entire lives, it comes as no surprise that reading books can be good for your mental health and your relationships with others, but exactly why and how is now becoming clearer, thanks to new research on readings effects on the brain. Since the discovery, in the mid-nineties, of mirror neuronsneurons that fire in our brains both when we perform an action ourselves and when we see an action performed by someone elsethe neuroscience of empathy has become clearer. A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology, based on analysis of fMRI brain scans of participants, showed that, when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through that experience themselves. We draw on the same brain networks when were reading stories and when were trying to guess at another persons feelings.
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