“Your Brain on Computers” is the series in which this article appears: from “An Ugly Toll of Technology” to “Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime,” these articles provide a fair and balanced perspective on the impact of technology on the brain. Except—wait—they don’t. My own bias is reflected though: I’m reading all of these articles online (of course). But I’m pretty sure they were intended to be read online; otherwise, why would there be an interactive feature? Why would there be on online forum for debate on the topic “first steps to digital detox”? (I’m sure many a smug online reader has noted this irony).
A 2009 study conducted by Gary Small’s research group investigated the neural correlates of technology use in older adults by conducting an fMRI of the brain during an internet search task. (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, one of my favorite technologies, is a recently-discovered type of brain scan that can highlight active neural regions based on blood flow changes during a task performance). The group was separated into ‘net-naïve’ and ‘net-savvy’ adults; they showed dramatic differential neural activation, with the net-savvy group demonstrating a twofold increase in neural activation during the search task compared to net-naïve participants; in fact, the net-savvy group showed significantly higher activation in regions controlling decision making, complex reasoning, and vision than in reading tasks. Preliminary conclusions of the study postulate that internet search tasks are extremely stimulating, and may engage a greater extent of neural circuitry not activated by simple text.
— Camilla Nord’s really great retort to the luddite propaganda that seems to be so in fashion right now. Full YPulse article.