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The Internet is Re-Wiring your Brain….in a Good Way

More fodder for the digital vs. dead tree debate:

UCLA Study: The Internet Is Altering Our Brains

….After the initial brain scan, subjects went home and conducted Internet searches for one hour a day for a total of seven days over a two-week period. These practice searches involved using the web to answer questions about various topics by exploring different websites and reading information. Participants then received a second brain scan using the same Internet simulation task, but with different topics.

The first scan of participants with little Internet experience showed brain activity in the regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities. The second brain scan of these participants, conducted after the home practice searches, demonstrated activation of these same regions, but there was also activity in the middle frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus – areas of the brain known to be important in working memory and decision-making.

….The results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults,” Teena D. Moody, the study’s first author and UCLA researcher, said in a statement.

When performing an online search, the ability to hold important information in working memory and to take away the important points from competing graphics and words is essential, Moody noted.

I will be interested in seeing brain scan comparisons between digital natives who were on computers from the time they were toddlers, and the digital immigrants.  My son, for example, learned to read on his own long before pre-school from looking at words on a computer screen ( less “learned” than spontaneously “realized” the symbol-sound-conceptual connection ) while his sister, who had a more traditional exposure to reading, learned later ( more “taught”).

Another difference, while they are both equally skilled at reading, adjusted for an age, she is an avid reader who devours large books (mostly fiction) while her brother reads instrumentally, for knowledge or expository explanations (mostly natural science subjects. Only “Clone Wars” attracted him to read fiction).

4 Responses to “The Internet is Re-Wiring your Brain….in a Good Way”

  1. onparkstreet Says:

    A blogger I read, Mick Hartley, posts a bit about the tendency for researchers to use such scans as indicative, of, well, anything, really. He’s a bit skeptical. I don’t know enough about the subject to comment intelligently, but, here is one such link:


  2. zen Says:

    Hi onparkstreet
    Well with MRI brain scans we have to accept that we are looking at correlation and not extrapolate too much unless there’s a weighty accumulation of evidence. However, such an accumulation of evidence only occurs when there are a lot of studies done over a long period of time and the net total is sufficiently large for meta-analytical patterns emerge to indicate where we need to dive deeper with more probing studies.
    I’d also have to ask Hartley, in general, what percentage of medical or even hard scientific studies meet the standards of the most rigorous peer-reviewed journals? Not a majority, I would wager. Funding strings impedes ideal research design 🙂

  3. UNRR Says:

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 10/20/2009, at <a href="http://unreligiousright.blogspot.com/">The Unreligious Right</a>

  4. Chicago Interpreter Says:

    This is good news for me. I am 46 years old and sometimes I feel I’m having trouble memorizing names and events which is not my problem before. I thought I needed a brain booster vitamins or something. But then, let me try surfing the net first. Thanks for this post.

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