Monday, December 01, 2008

Is Googling good for the brain?

A new study thinks it may be (via Newsalert):

Can Googling delay the onset of dementia?

A new UCLA study, part of the growing research into the effects of technology on the brain, shows that searching the Internet may keep older brains agile - it's like taking your brain for a walk.

It's too early to conclude that technology will help vanquish Alzheimer's disease, but "our study shows that when your brain is on Google, your neural circuitry changes extensively," said psychiatrist Gary Small, director of UCLA's Memory & Aging Research Center....

The MRI results showed that both text reading and Internet searching stimulated the regions of the brain controlling language, reading, memory and vision. But the Internet search lit up more areas of the brain, additionally activating the regions controlling complex reasoning and decision making. The increased brain activity, which is probably due to the many rapid choices such searches involve, suggests that subjects had a richer sensory experience and heightened attention.

We hear so much bad press about the internet, it's nice to hear something positive. However, I must say, in my experience, the more time I spend on the internet, the more adept I get at it, but the less adept I get at other parts of my life. Mainly, because I am thinking about something I read or thinking about something I want to read or find and I don't focus on what I am doing in my non-virtual life. In other words, my memory seems fine on the internet but off of it, I notice I misplace things, can't remember what I was doing, or have a harder time focusing on non-computer-related tasks.

What do you think, does your internet time help or hurt your memory?


Blogger Cham said...

Just like anything else, time spent on the computer should be managed. Learning about subjects, asking questions and exploring can be a good thing, but when you are pounding away at the keyboard to fill up time or avoid personal interactions then one might want to consider taking a break.

7:04 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've always had trouble with proper nouns, and names are the worst of that breed. But when I'm keyboarding instead of doing social interaction, the problem is lessened. I suspect it's a matter of interruptions (or the possibility thereof) -- I just don't let the internet do that to me.

Mind you, that was true even when the only thing on the far end of my keyboard was a sheet of paper; but I can see both the study results, and your commentary.

7:21 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger lovemelikeareptile said...

If I spend substantial time on the Internet, I feel "disoriented" afterward, as if I have left one world and entered another-- the real one as opposed to the virtual one on the screen and the-pre-occupation with one's own thoughts it induces.
This is different from reading a book or a newspaper.

7:42 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger Brett Rogers said...

Most people searching have a target in mind, and given how search today is incomplete, it's a bit like a puzzle to find the right search terms - hence the "complex reasoning and decision making." As search becomes more robust, might this phenomenon go away?

10:07 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger Wendy Aron said...

I think peri-menopause has pretty much cancelled out all of the memory gains I might have made via my Web surfing.

Wendy Aron, author of Hide & Seek: How I Laughed at Depression, Conquered My Fears and Found Happiness

10:17 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

"However, I must say, in my experience, the more time I spend on the internet, the more adept I get at it, but the less adept I get at other parts of my life."

Yep, I used to be able to look at the summary scores of a Rorschach and know what it meant, then I got the scoring program. Now I know what the scoring program says.

Humans are very capable at forgeting mundane things that we no longer use.


11:09 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger Toysoldier said...

I do not think it has hurt my memory, but I doubt it has helped. There are times when I get sensory overload like I occasionally do when watching too much TV. Wikipedia is my bane because there is so much random information available and I have a habit of double checking anything I read.

11:25 AM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger lovemelikeareptile said...

Wendy Aron

Your book received excellant reviews-- worth looking into, apparently the story of a journey through the self-help gurus of the "mental health " profession.

You might be aware that there is a huge scandal involving Big Pham and the major academic "researchers" in psychiatry-- The Senate Finance Committee has revealed vast conflict of interest issues-- that have been obvious for many years-- and several of the major figures in biological psychiatry have either literally left the country for other positions ( A. John Rush, Singapore ), tendered their resignations ( Nemeroff at Emory ) or are under scrutiny ( Biederman at Harvard, etc ) for taking huge undisclosed sums from the manufacturers of the drugs they "advocate".
Since the latter generation anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are no more efficacious then their ancient generic competitors-- and that is , on balance, quite limited-- there is no rational basis, other than side-effect profile-- to recommend the newer, far more expensive medications. Texas , in particular, has sued some of the BIG PHAM companies for getting their drugs on the state algorithm plan via the recommendations of paid-off psychiatrist-"experts", at a huge cost to Texas tax-payers.
Former Director of the NIMH Goodwin was also revealed to have received over 1.2 million in moneys from a drug company-- a fact he did not disclose when discussing and advocating the medications on his NPR program.

Since there is no understanding of the patho-phsiology of "mental illness" rational drug design is impossible-- and drug companies are not spending money on developing new drugs, as clinical research trials show poor efficacy and no advantage over the old agents, which were typically discovered therough serendipity. Psychiatry is a trial-and-error field, with no rational basis for drug selection, other than side-effect profile. Hence, there is no expertise in the field, and no reason to suffer the dehumanization and stigma associated with going to a psychiatrist. Your GP is as good going through the trial-and-error process, to see if some benefit can be gained by drug therapy, which though often beneficial in some patients, most patients still retain a significant level of symptoms.

11:47 AM, December 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I search the net for many things. It takes up time, because I do want to get at least two sources (if news, etc.) for what I am looking for. I search for at least a third if the two sources conflict.

It is interesting that google, alta vista, yahoo, etc., will often have different articles on a same subject.

Crap. What was I doing before I read this post?

1:21 PM, December 01, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

""our study shows that when your brain is on Google..."

That one threw me. What the hell is "on Google"? Then I remembered there was stuff in the upper left corner.

I never use it. One reason I dislike Yahoo is their shove it in your face attitude.

Google is like a dictionary to me. Interesting to read some stuff occasionally, but mostly just a reference.

My computer time is spent writing and programming.

12:13 AM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger uncle ken said...

The net is as addictive as cocaine. Google is synonymous with crack! I love the hidden functions like 'spell' and 'define'. Worse are video games; they draw the player in until real life collapses around them; unsupported in the vacuum.

Like a reformed alcoholic with a bare liquor cabinet, I keep no video games at home.

4:25 AM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger Atomic Nerds said...

If anything it has helped- I treat my book collection as another extension of my ability to rapidly search and reference information. It's more awkward than Google, but sometimes information isn't readily searchable that way. It does tend to lead to stacks of books on my computer desk as I chase down references, but that's not all that bad a side effect.

I also still read plenty, so I think it's more a matter of letting the two abilities augment and complement one another rather than letting one wither while strengthening another.


5:29 PM, December 02, 2008  
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4:39 PM, April 16, 2009  

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