"The simple headline here is that Google is making us smarter," says Gary Small of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California at Los Angeles. Thank you, Dr. Small. And thank you, Internet, for not only helping me dig up this information but also juicing up my brain while I looked for it. Small recently published results showing that searching the Internet does for the brains of older folks what doing bench presses does for chest muscles.
Small demonstrated this with functional-MRI scans, which reveal real-time brain activity. Half of the 24 study participants used the Internet on a daily basis, and the other half had little to no experience. (Yes, those people exist, and they're easier to find if you look for people older than 60.) First, Small compared the participants' brain activity as they read a book off a computer screen, and both groups produced similar results. But when he examined the groups as they hunted for clues about the benefits of eating chocolate and the best way to visit the Galápagos, the Web-experienced group registered twice as much activity in the frontal, temporal and cingulate areas of the brain — all of which contribute to complex reasoning.
Future studies will examine how much the increased neural activity improves — or possibly hinders — intelligence, but Small thinks that the "Web naive" group could build up their brain muscle by logging more time on the Internet. "You keep searching more and more — you lift more and more," he says, "you get more of a workout."
That's a simple headline, as well as a completely ridiculous and unfounded statement. I happen to agree with this article's headline but that is not a conclusion that can be drawn from this experiment.
There are many reasons why people who don't use the internet are not using complex reasoning as much as people who do use the internet. Do you have more brain activity when someone tells you to do something you know nothing about, or something you're familiar with? This experiment has nothing to do with the internet, the results should be contributed to familiarity.
It comes down to stimulating the brain. As you get older, you need to stimulate the brain. If using the internet works for some 60+ers then have at it.
InterNets haz learned me to be good smart.
Allow me to tickle your brain!
"This experiment has nothing to do with the internet, the results should be contributed to familiarity."
Talk about unfounded claims of causation...
What does this have to do w/ familiarity.???
One might propose that it has NOTHING to do with familiarity, but instead the tendency for the complexity of a task and the the amount of brain activity associated with it's completion to share a positive correlation.
In the experiment, both sets had the same level of brain activity as each other while simply reading the book on-screen, but showed a mark difference in brain activity when tasked to find information via information search. Since the first half of the experiment showed a lack of difference between the two sets while performing an activity that did not require familiarity, there is a very good chance that the results in the second half are the results of familiarity and not a difference in intelligence between the two groups.
Really, is anyone surprised that the human brain can perform a task more efficiently if it has performed it many times before? The study needs to perform a similar experiment with a completely different task: say a group of experienced artists asked to sketch an image from a photo compared to an inexperienced group. I would wager the experienced artists would show much higher brain activity than the inexperienced, simply because they are drawing on their knowledge and past experience concerning that particular medium.
So yes, sellassie, bdhoro87 is correct; this is an experiment in familiarity, being used to jump to a conclusion about the medium that happened to be used to perform the experiment.
The sample is so small that any results are statistically insignificant, but I think that this type of information searching does lead to learning and a deeper access to information.
I think the cause/effect might be off a little. Your brain is also compensating for transmitted light, rather than reflected light. You're also preparing to click "next page" or scroll the window. Little things like font and font size would probably make a difference.
Old people need to stimulate everything =P not just their brains...but trying to teach an old dog new tricks, well we all know how hard that is.
Maybe it has nothing to do with familiarity, but I'm just a business student posting on a science blog, I'm not expected to substantiate my claims. But this is an experiment being done by scientists, and when they make claims they do have to be substantiated.
Still I think my conclusion is just as valid and makes more sense than Gary Small's, and thanks qlmmb2086 for backing me up.
I don't know if this experiment proves that every part of the internet makes your smarter, but I know from experience that the Internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to brain function:
While it does improve one's ability to figure out which keywords to use in a web search (and possibly describing things in general), over-use of the Internet can shorten attention span significantly.
I don't know how big the Internet's effect on attention span is, and it probably varies from person to person. However, a short attention span (impatience) is a bad thing.