Researchers reveal how podcasts affect your brain

Research reveals the power of the spoken word to stimulate the brain.


A research team from the University of California, Berkeley, recently studied the brain activity of participants as they absorbed and responded to spoken stories.

After breaking down the stories into 12 specific social element categories, they found that some words activated in the same parts of the brain in different listeners.

Words such as mother and father, or those relating to family, triggered the same part of the brain while numbers, dates and times triggered another part.

“Consider the case of just the word ‘dog’. Hearing that is going to make you think about how a dog looks, how it smells, how the fur feels, the dog you had as a kid, a dog that bit you on your paper route. It’s going to activate the entire network for ‘dog’,” team member Dr Jack Gallant said.

 “When you listen to a podcast, it’s not just the part of your brain that processes sound and language that’s engaged. If you’re listening to a story that involves, for example, a pack of four barking dogs, one of which smells really bad, the part of your brain that is linked to your sense of smell, as well as the part that is associated with numbers and math, will be highly engaged. Listening to podcasts, in other words, is not a passive activity.

“You get lost in the stories,” he added.

The image shows just how engaging podcasts can be.

“They make your brain hum,” Dr Gallant told Freakonomics. “Whether that humming is mysterious and delightful kind of depends on whether you wanted your brain to hum or not. If you were planning to sleep, that might not be so good.”

It seems that podcasts, in moderation, could be great exercise for your brain.

So make sure you listen to YourLifeChoices’ first weekly podcast on Sunday. Publisher Kaye Fallick and TV and radio announcer John Deeks will discuss retirement costs, the loneliness epidemic and why airlines are weighing people pre-flight.

Podcasts are a great source of inspiration that can keep you educated and informed. Do you Podcast? If so, share in the comments below which Podcasts you are currently listening to and why.

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