About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
GOOD Worldwide Inc. publishing
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Neuroscientist shares the fascinating ways people's brains react when told a story

The neuroscientist shared how amazing it would be if we could transfer dreams to one another.

Neuroscientist shares the fascinating ways people's brains react when told a story
Cover Image Source: YouTube | TED

Sharing stories is one of the oldest and most captivating human traditions. A skilled storyteller can evoke a wide range of emotions with just a few words. But stories do more than just elicit reactions. Neuroscientist Uri Hasson explains that our brains have a unique response to storytelling. "Imagine if we could invent a device to record my dreams and ideas and transmit them to your brain," Hasson said at TED 2016.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Lina Kivaka
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Lina Kivaka

It would be a game-changing technology, as per Hasson. "But in fact, we already possess the device and it is called human communication system and effective storytelling," the neuroscientist explained. A look into our brains can show the workings of this awe-inspiring device. To completely understand how ideas are communicated from one person's brain to another person's brain apart from sound waves, Hasson and his team created a neural protocol by studying the impact of storytelling on people's brains. This was done through an fMRI scan conducted in his lab. The brain scans were performed when people were either listening to or telling stories.


Five people listened to the same story during the experiment. Before listening to the story, all of them had different brain activities. But soon after the story started, their brain activities became aligned. To understand the alignment further, as per the TED blog, Hasson's team made people listen to the story in different ways, including backward and then with non-sense sounds put together and then with scrambled sentences. It was observed that only some areas of the brain align if it's not a real story. To align deep areas of the brain, like the frontal cortex and the parietal cortex, it reportedly has to be a proper real-life story.


They conducted another experiment where English and Russian speakers listened to the same story in their respective native languages. Their brain activities were aligned despite the difference in language. These experiments were conducted in order to prove that the alignment comes from much more than just the auditor input listeners receive. Several other experiments were conducted to prove the theory. In one of them, people were told a story that was paraphrased for different listeners. Even then, people's brain activities were aligned. During another activity, a person was made to watch an episode of "Sherlock" on BBC Television. They then told the story to another person. Both of their brain activities were aligned even though the sources they got the story from were different. 


Hasson shared that the reason people who speak different languages can communicate is because the areas in our brain that interpret meaning align similarly, making it possible to understand each other. He added that when our brain activities align better, we understand each other better. He expressed, "Our ability to communicate relies on our ability to find a common ground." However, he also shared that this can be misused. He explained that the difference in a single sentence can cause major misalignment in different people. So, in real life, when people constantly listen to different perspectives, their alignments can become drastically different from others. It can be really worrying as a society to lose a common ground that keeps us connected, Hasson concluded.

More Stories on Scoop