Our brains love unique metaphors. In a paper published in Brain & Language, researchers from Emory University demonstrated through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that metaphors involving texture activate the sensory cortex of a reader’s brain (Paul, 2002). The research shows that if we read a sentence like ‘The singer had a velvet voice’ or ‘He had leathery hands,’ our sensory cortex lights up. But if we read, ‘He had strong hands,’ no sensory activity is detected. ‘Strong’ must be an overused adjective that evidently does not wow the brain in any way. Language that is suffused with compelling details, with allusion and metaphor allows the brain to create representations that engage the same regions that would be active if the scenes were taking place in the reality of the reader. Picture making is the writer’s world as much as it is the visual artist’s or the film-maker’s.
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