Read Dr. Gary Small Transcript
Gary: Let's just take one example of searching on the internet. And we just did a study at UCLA where we looked for people who had never done this before. And we knew they were out there but they were older because technophobes tend to be older. We recruited them at libraries, not online, and we found enough of them so we could start the study and match them up with people who had prior Internet search experience.
So we had people on average in their mid-60's; we put them in a functional MRI scanner and we had them wear special goggles that presented them with internet search pages or a reading textbook page, so we could compare what the brain looked like getting information from traditional reading versus searching online and making decisions.
And we found a very interesting result, and that was when the people with experience searching online, when they did the internet search in the scanner, they had much greater extent of brain activation compared to people who were naïve to the experience. In fact, it was almost twofold greater throughout the brain, and especially in the front part of the brain that makes decisions.
So if you think about it, when you're searching online, it's an interactive process. You're thinking from moment to moment, so one conclusion is that these kinds of activities really do exercise our brains in very many ways. However, when it becomes repetitive and routine, we see less activation. In a sense, the brain becomes more efficient. So the question is, how can we balance these different types of technology experiences to improve brain function and improve our humanity?
Robert: Can we, or is that genie out of the bottle?
Gary: I think we can. I think when we begin to understand how it affects the brain, how it affects our lives, that's tremendously important.
I've been talking to schools about these issues and one of the schools in Los Angeles, before I came they had a day without technology, where the middle schoolers and high schoolers voluntarily said, "I'm going to go cold turkey from my laptop and my cell phone."
Robert: That sounds like a diet that doesn't work.
Gary: It didn't, most of them didn't survive till noon.