Twilight novels ‘could be altering the brain’

The Twilight series of young adult novels “could be affecting the dynamic workings of the teenage brain in ways scientists don’t yet understand” according to a bizarre article from LiveScience.

To be fair, the premise of the article is quite correct, Twilight novels (along with everything) are indeed altering the brain in ways we don’t understand, because the brain changes in response to any and every experience we have – plus, we don’t have omniscient powers of all-knowing.

The report has apparently been inspired by a recent conference just held in the UK called ‘The Emergent Mind: Adolescent Literature and Culture’ which, judging by the pdf of the programme, had nothing to say about the brain.

The literature researchers quoted in the article make some vague and unhelpful generalisations about neuroscience but it’s hard to say whether they were just speculating based on the reporter’s questions.

The result, however, is an Onion-esque ‘vampire novels are changing teen brains’ article. Perhaps its only redeeming feature is that it makes an ironic scare story about books that balances out the usual scare stories about technology.

All those misinformed parents who stopped their kids using the internet and made them read novels are likely kicking themselves now. This would be funnier, of course, if it wasn’t so likely.

Link to fiction-inspired LiveScience article (via @stevesilberman).


  1. Posted September 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I love your framing of this in contrast to the tech-scare stories.

  2. DTL
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    As someone with an MA degree in English Lit who is now doing a degree in the biomedical sciences, I am all in favour being interdisciplinary, but, er, not in this way.

    Neuroscience has very little to do with the analysis of literature, and considering how flexible the adolescent brain is, you can’t draw very useful conclusions based on this.

    There are loads of influences on the adolescent brain, so it’s not like you can easily decide what influence a phenomenon like Twilight is going to have.

    A literary analysis of Twilight, and how adolescents respond to it, would be very interesting, but not necessarily to neuroscientists.

  3. Imoscar
    Posted September 14, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Reading Mind Hacks might alter the brain in ways we don’t understand

    I’m off to the bunker….

  4. Posted September 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Methinks altering the [current] state of teenage mind can only be a good thing!

    I’ve always had a great imagination and have passed this on to my kids (one is now a teen) with the belief that not only is it ok to use your imagination wildly, it’s highly recommended to set them apart from their peers.

    I have read the Twilight novels several times now, as has my teenage son. So far, his mind hasn’t changed that much – that I can see at least! As for my own mind, I think I am regressing into teenagehood and on the lookout for my very own vampire boyfriend….

  5. Posted September 15, 2010 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    The only mind altering effect that the Twilight novels is having is the acceptance of garbage as literature by teenagers.

  6. Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely hate these studies–I swear, they’re designed with media coverage in mind. “Let’s pick a trendy topic from column A–hmmm, vampires–and a trendy topic from column B–aha, brain plasticity–and voila! We have a study.”

    You know what else changes the brain? Reading anything. Eating. Sleeping. Getting older. In short: everything.

  7. Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Upon further review, I now realize that there actually wasn’t even a study. Oops. However, I still reserve the right to hate the whole idea.

  8. Posted September 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t *everything* a teen (or child) gets exposed to change their brain? And isn’t that the point?

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