DOES using your computer build your mind power?
A study by UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small has clearly shown that using your computer changes your brain is some very beneficial ways, and can actually build your mind power and make you smarter.
In his new book, “iBRAIN: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” Small tells us that the modern shift in how we gather information and communicate with one another has touched off an era of rapid evolution that may ultimately even change the human brain.
This should not come as a surprise. Our amazing brain’s plasticity – its ability to change in response to different stimuli – is now well known. And the more time you devote to a specific activity (like using your computer), the stronger the neural pathways responsible for that activity become.
Professional musicians have more gray matter in brain regions responsible for finger movements. And athletes’ brains are bulkier in areas that control hand-eye coordination. So, of course, people who process a lot of digital information would have more neurons dedicated to handling that information.
To see how the Internet might be changing our brains to make us somehow smarter, Small and colleagues monitored the brains of 24 adults as they performed an online search, and again as they read a page of online text.
During the online search, those who reported using the Internet regularly in their everyday lives showed twice as much activity in brain regions responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning.
The findings suggest that Internet use enhances the brain’s capacity to be stimulated, and that reading on your monitor activates more brain regions than reading printed words. The research adds to previous studies that have shown that tech-savvy people:
1 Possess greater working memory: they can store and retrieve more bits of information in the short term,
2 Are more adept at perceptual learning: adjusting their perception of the world in response to changing information, and
3. Have better motor skills.
Researcher Small says these differences are likely to be even more profound across generations, because younger people are exposed to more technology from an earlier age than older people.
He refers to this as the brain gap. On one side, what he calls digital natives – those who have never known a world without e-mail and text messaging – use their superior cognitive abilities to make snap decisions and juggle multiple sources of sensory input.
On the other side, digital immigrants – those who witnessed the advent of modern technology later in life – are better at reading facial expressions than they are at navigating cyberspace.
Well, I have to say maybe, and maybe not. The thing to remember is this: Those of us who were not born with a computer on our playshelf STILL have brain plasticity going for us. So get Grandma and Gramps on the computer.
And as to those who say computer use is isolating youth, this too can be challenged. A 2005 Kaiser study found that young people who spent the most time engaged with high-technology also spent the most time interacting face-to-face with friends and family. Interesting.
There are now even online high tech programs especially designed to use your computer to build your mind power.