New Book Examines Your Brain on Technology

New Book Examines Your Brain on Technology
Allison Mooney
  • 17 october 2008

Technology is changing how we think–literally. According to a new book, “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind,” spending just a short time on the web alters our neural pathways.

Authors Gary Small and GiGi Vorgan outlined their research and findings in the most recent issue of Scientific American Mind. In their study, an MRI machine measured brain activity while “computer-naive” subjects (all three of them) “surfed” the web using specially designed Internet goggles (ps – we want). They were then compared to computer-savvy subjects. After just five days of web-surfing, the naive subjects had developed the same patterns of neural activation as the savvy ones. In some people, the Web surfing triggered reward pathways that have been linked to addiction.

So what does this mean? Well, Small theorizes that the barrage of digital stimuli our brains are now receiving can lead to social dysfunction.

As the brain evolves and shifts its focus toward new technological skills, it drifts away from fundamental social skills, such as reading facial expressions during conversation or grasping the emotional context of a subtle gesture. A 2002 Stanford University study found that for every hour we spend on our computers, traditional face-to-face interaction time with other people drops by nearly 30 minutes.

Basically, it seems the Internet is making us autistic. A Kaiser Family study from 2005 found that 8-18 year olds (so-called “digital natives”) expose their brains to 8.5 hours of digital and video sensory stimulation a day–and that was 3 years ago. This technology use has made millennial brains particularly adept at filtering information, making snap decisions, and fielding Facebook pokes, but at the expense of sustained concentration, reading body language, and making real-world friends. As technology spreads, natural selection will favor these newly wired brains, and older neural pathways will disappear, taking traditional communication skills with them.

In addition to changing our social skills, our new “wired” brains may also lead us to suffer from “techno-brain burnout,” i.e. psychological and brain stress caused by “continuous partial attention” to text messages, emails, IMs, Twitters, Facebook newsfeeds, Flickr photos, etc… Apparently, this continuous partial attention gives us a high, let’s call it bloggerphoria. Once people become used to this tech-tastic state, it fuels our egos and self-worth and want more, more , more!!! This explains a lot (e.g. Michael Arrington). In a nutshell: computers = crack pipes.

Overall, this isn’t a bad thing. Computers and technology are making us ruthlessly efficient and actually increasing our mental acuity, cognitive skills and intelligence. The truth is, our brains NEED to adapt and rewire themselves in order to live in our wired world. Yet Small issues a call for us to “maintain our people skills and our humanity.” Hasn’t he seen Terminator? Even cyborgs can learn empathy and compassion, though it may take a sequel or two…

“iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind”


Crash-Friendly Drone Made From LEGOs Is Completely Rebuildable

Culture Today

Messaging Add-On Helps You Correct Your Friends’ Bad Grammar

An iMessage sticker pack will help you copyedit text messages

Automotive Today

Mercedes-Benz Introduces A New Electric Mobility Brand

The separate entity aims to simplify the identification of Mercedes EV products to customers


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Mobile Today

Tinder’s New Feature Makes Swiping A Group Effort

The dating app wants to democratize its gestural interaction by buying in to the social polling trend pervasive among millennials

Syndicated Today

Autonomous Garbage Drone Prevents Trash From Reaching Deep Ocean

The solar-powered WasteShark collects refuse closer to the source: the harbor

Automotive Today

Aston Martin Reveals Its Own Luxury Powerboat

The sleek AM37 echoes styling elements from the British brand's sports cars

Advertising Today

An Escort Website Fights Violence Against Sex Workers

The advocacy campaign from McCann aims uncover the human toll of the exploitative industry


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Digital Design Expert: Mobile First Is Dead, Think Mobile Native

Brian Cooper, chief creative officer of OLIVER Group UK, explains how some brands are still playing catch-up to new technology

PSFK Labs Yesterday

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Culture Today

LIFE Magazine Relaunches In Pure VR

The general interest periodical, which ceased publication in 2000, has turned into a portal for virtual reality content

Mobile Today

Reorder This Detox Drink With A Simple Text Message

Dirty Lemon is streamlining its communication by letting customers place orders, ask product questions and request help exclusively through chat

Op-Ed Today

The Future Of The American Workforce Requires Unbundling College Education

President of JetBlue Technology Ventures: developing corporate education programs for non-traditional students

Retail Today

Gilt’s Pop-Up House Is The Kind Of Store You’ll Want To Live In

The New York City townhouse plays host to the latest in retail inspiration, curation, and lifestyle activation (and some libations, too)


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Mobile Today

Registering To Vote Is Now Just A Text Away

A new bot aims to mobilize underrepresented groups this election season through SMS and Facebook Messenger

Africa Today

Virtual Reality Game Gives Lessons About Emergency Birth Care

LIFE is a serious tool that takes advantage of new technology to help save lives

Luxury Today

Shoe Repair Has Moved Onto Your Phone

Cobbler Concierge is an on-demand service to get your footwear fixed online

No search results found.