According to UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small in his new book, “iBRAIN: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” the internet is changing the way your brain works.
Really? Ya think?
The idea that the brain is elastic and is constantly rewiring itself is not really anything new. Pat Wolfe and Geoffery Caine (along with many others) have been saying this for some time. But Small’s book brings a bit more research to the table.
fMRI studies are starting to show what we’ve long suspected: the persistent use of technology strengthens certain brain-activity patterns.
The research adds to previous studies that have shown that the tech-savvy among us possess greater working memory (meaning they can store and retrieve more bits of information in the short term), are more adept at perceptual learning (that is, adjusting their perception of the world in response to changing information), and have better motor skills.
Small goes on to discuss what he calls the Brain Gap – the generational difference between those who have used technology all of their lives and those that haven’t. He suggests that the difference could be profound. But Small is quick to point out that both groups – those brains wired with technology and those wires without – both have their positives.
The evidence seems to suggest that digital immigrants—those who witnessed the advent of modern technology long after their brains had been hardwired—are better at reading facial expressions than they are at navigating cyberspace.
The typical immigrant’s brain was trained in completely different ways of socializing and learning, taking things step-by-step and addressing one task at a time. Immigrants learn more methodically and tend to execute tasks more precisely
So is this a good thing? Are we sacrificing our students ability to interact face to face as some have argued? Small does argue that we can have it all
The elasticity of the human brain means that you can have it all: reap the cognitive benefits offered by modern technology, avoid becoming an Internet junkie and preserve traditional social skills.
The key is finding the right balance between technology and people.