The June 2008 issue of Scientific American has an article called “The Healthy Type”, which is about the therapeutic value of blogging. Research reported in the February issue of The Oncologist has apparently shown that cancer patients who engage in something called expressive writing just before undergoing treatment feel much better, both physically and psychologically compared to patients who did not engage in such writing. Blogging apparently works the same way that expressive writing does, with the added benefit that the blogger gains a community via the activity. Other researchers have shown that there is a link between expressive writing and biological changes, such as improved sleep.
Now researchers are trying to figure out why writing has such beneficial effects. Is it a placebo effect, in which the act of complaining and communicating via the writing acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied”? Or does the act of writing release dopamine in the brain, in the same way that running and looking at art do? It’s difficult to know how blogging works to make people feel better because, according to researchers, the active regions involved are located so deep inside the brain. Images of the brain show that some differences occur in brain activity before, during and after writing but so far, attempts to pinpoint those differences and how they work have failed. But there are a lot of researchers interested in various aspects of the issue so soon we might understand why I always sleep better after writing one of these entries.
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.