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technology changing our brains

merlin's picture

After reading How we Read, I have been fascinated by the ability of technology to effect the workings of our brains. They say that video games and search engines create and strengthen neural pathways and potentially weaken old ones. But doesn't this sound a bit scary? It suggests that the structure of our brain is physically being changed by technology!

There was one study conducted at Harvard university in which people without prior experience playing the piano were separated into 3 groups. One group had intense piano lessons for 5 days.  There was a second control group who did nothing. The third group, however, was taken into the room with the piano and told to "imagine" they were getting lessons and being instructed…

The surprising results showed that compared to the control group (which showed no change), Both group 1 and group 3 showed significant changes in brain structure (enlargement of the area associated with finger movement). 

What is interesting about this is that not only does instruction change the structure of our brains, but that merely IMAGINING an event ALSO changes the structure of our brains! This made me think of the virtual world, especially the world of video games and online communities. We think of anything virtual as being almost like an imaginary environment that exists somewhere out there in cyberspace, and of video games as "not real." But do they have as much of an effect on our growth and development as if we were interacting with the world around us? I think this is an important area to think about in terms of child development and how much time little kids today spend online and with their cell phones. 





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