Monday, April 13, 2009


(This post stuck here for a time. Please scroll down for other postings)

Those reading this posting most likely make use of Twenty-first Century technology. Some of us clearly enjoy spending a lot of time with our electronic devices; others of us must do so because so many careers today require our making use of digital technology.

Recently, some studies have indicated that our reliance on the availably technology is actually changing our brains and possibly our society as well. From this article, written by neuroscientist Susan Greenfield:
...[T]he brain is not the unchanging organ that we might imagine. It not only goes on developing, changing and, in some tragic cases, eventually deteriorating with age, it is also substantially shaped by what we do to it and by the experience of daily life. When I say "shaped", I'm not talking figuratively or metaphorically; I'm talking literally. At a microcellular level, the infinitely complex network of nerve cells that make up the constituent parts of the brain actually change in response to certain experiences and stimuli.

The brain, in other words, is malleable - not just in early childhood but right up to early adulthood, and, in certain instances, beyond. The surrounding environment has a huge impact both on the way our brains develop and how that brain is transformed into a unique human mind.

Of course, there's nothing new about that: human brains have been changing, adapting and developing in response to outside stimuli for centuries.

...[T]he pace of change in the outside environment and in the development of new technologies has increased dramatically. This will affect our brains over the next 100 years in ways we might never have imagined.

Our brains are under the influence of an ever- expanding world of new technology: multichannel television, video games, MP3 players, the internet, wireless networks, Bluetooth links - the list goes on and on.


it's pretty clear that the screen-based, two dimensional world that so many teenagers - and a growing number of adults - choose to inhabit is producing changes in behaviour. Attention spans are shorter, personal communication skills are reduced and there's a marked reduction in the ability to think abstractly.

This games-driven generation interpret the world through screen-shaped eyes. It's almost as if something hasn't really happened until it's been posted on Facebook, Bebo or YouTube.

Add that to the huge amount of personal information now stored on the internet - births, marriages, telephone numbers, credit ratings, holiday pictures - and it's sometimes difficult to know where the boundaries of our individuality actually lie. Only one thing is certain: those boundaries are weakening....
Read the rest.

This article, positive in outlook, states the following:
Scientists are beginning to document the traces that the Internet leaves on sensitive young brains. People who play a lot of action video games, for instance, process visual information more quickly than people who don't, according to a seminal 2003 article in Nature. (The study was initiated by a pre-med student who stayed up all night playing Counter-Strike.)

Digital immersion affects the Net Generation in other ways, too. They don't necessarily read from left to right, or from beginning to end. They're more sensitive to visual icons than older people are, and they absorb more information when it's presented with visual images than when it's offered in straight text. This may help them be better scanners, a useful skill when you're confronted with masses of online information.

Many experts contend that if young people try to absorb multiple streams of information at the same time, they'll make mistakes, slow down, and think less deeply and creatively. My observation of hundreds of Net Geners leads me to a different conclusion: Net Geners are faster than I am at switching tasks and better at blocking out background noise. They can work effectively with music playing and news coming in from Facebook. They can keep up their social networks while they concentrate on work—they seem to need this to feel comfortable. I think they've learned to live in a world where they're bombarded with information, so that they can block out the TV or other distractions while they focus on the task at hand. This is a powerful advantage in a digital environment that's buzzing with multiple streams of information....
As expected and contrary to the excerpt immediately above, much information about the impact of technology on our brains and our lives warns of dangers to which we expose ourselves by spending so much time with digital devices. Specifically, while doing research for this FEATURED QUESTION, I found much about internet addiction and even The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery.

Since you started making use of digital-age available technology, have you experienced any brain, behavioral, or social changes — positive or negative?

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Always On Watch @ 4/13/2009 08:00:00 AM