Googling is good for adults, but what about teens?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Using the Internet not only makes more information available for your brain, it makes more of your brain use the information.

That's the conclusion of a UCLA study using functional MRI tests on 24 volunteers between 55 and 76, with the group divided based on Internet experience.

Scientists used to look to crossword puzzles as one activity that could help keep older people sharp, increasing brain activity to avoid atrophy, reduction in cell activity and harmful deposits what affect the brain's cognitive function.

They have found that book reading stimulates regions of the brain that control language, reading, memory and visual abilities in the temporal, parietal, occipital and other areas of the brain. Switch to Googling, however, and the MRIs show additional activity in the frontal, temporal and cingulate areas of the brain, which control decision-making and complex reasoning.

The study found evidence that the online brain hard-wires itself to adapt to the Internet. Brain activity is registered by a unit called a "voxel." The UCLA study found volunteers who had prior Internet experience had 21,782 voxels while Googling; but those who were new to the Internet registered only 8,646.

Researchers felt the latter group, however, would benefit over time with more time on the Web.

One of the UCLA researchers, Dr. Gary Small, who with co-author Gigi Vorgan, has written a book about the subject, "iBrain," admitted they don't know about what happens with younger brains.

"What happens to a developing teenage brain that's spending nearly nine hours a day with the technology?" he asked.

"These kids haven't fully developed their frontal lobes, their complex reasoning and judgment and decision-making skills. How will that natural stage of development be affected by the exposure to the technology? We don't know the answer to that."

Unfortunately, millions of teenage and younger test subjects around the world are conducting that experiment right now.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: