Dopamine and Desire: The Neuroscience of Captivating Writing with Bill Birchard

In this enlightening podcast episode, Bill Birchard, a seasoned journalist and business writer, delves into the fascinating world of writing and its impact on the brain. Through extensive research, Bill discovered a treasure trove of information on how language can stimulate various regions of the brain, and in turn, enhance reader experience.

Episode Highlights:

  • The Discovery of a Goldmine: Bill shares how his late-career exploration led him to a wealth of research on how language affects the brain. He stumbled upon decades of behavioral and imaging experiments that uncovered the neurological responses triggered by different types of language.

  • Writing with Impact: The discussion centers around Bill’s quest to write with more impact, ultimately resulting in his book. He explains how specific words and phrases, when crafted effectively, can fire up the brain and release dopamine, creating what he calls a “brain buzz.”

  • Embodied Cognition: Bill explores the concept of embodied cognition, where specific words engage not only the language processing circuit but also parts of the brain associated with physical experiences. This, he argues, leads to a more immersive reading experience.

  • The Role of Dopamine: Bill breaks down the neurochemical process in the brain, highlighting dopamine’s crucial role in the reward circuit. He explains how this neurotransmitter influences desire, pleasure, and, ultimately, the learning process.

  • Principles of Great Writing: The conversation unfolds as Bill discusses eight principles of great writing, each backed by research showcasing its impact on different brain regions and the reward circuit.

Key Takeaways:

  • Specificity is Power: Bill emphasizes the neurological underpinnings of the principle that specificity in writing is more powerful than generalities. He explains how our brains engage more deeply when words evoke sensory and motor experiences.

  • Abstract Words and Simulation: While specificity reigns supreme, Bill acknowledges that abstract words also play a role in stimulating the brain through associations and simulations.


Listeners are treated to a thought-provoking exploration of the intersection between language, the brain, and the art of writing. Bill Birchard’s insights provide a roadmap for writers looking to tap into the neurological responses that make impactful writing truly unforgettable.

Resources mentioned in the episode

Link to purchase BIll’s most recent book, Writing for Impact

Bill’s website