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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Internet Is Better for the Brain than Books?

A new brain imaging study showed that going online stimulated larger parts of the brain than the relatively passive activity of reading a novel or non-fiction book.

The science writer, Richard Alleyenne, of the lay article claims that this proves that Internet browsing is better for brain development than reading books. The scientists involved in the research seem to agree. Here are quotes from the article:

It was so stimulating that the authors of the study believe it could actually help people maintain healthier brains into their old age. The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerised technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults," said principal investigator Dr Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at University of California. Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function." The study, the first of its kind to assess the impact of internet searching on brain performance, is published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Well, before you tell schools to throw away the textbooks and let the kids browse away, you should know this: when a brain lights up in many places, it means the brain does not know how to deal with all the stimuli. It has not mobilized or focused its neural circuitry to deal with the stimuli efficiently and effectively. In most imaging studies I have read, when a brain knows how to cope with a task, FEWER areas light up. In other words, a brain works best when it can focus its resources. If you want your kids to grow up scatterbrained, put them on the Web. If you want them to develop longer attention spans and improve critical thinking skills, have them read good books. Their brain will thank you.