- The brain’s plasticity—its ability to change in response to stimuli from the environment—is well known. What has been less appreciated is how the expanding use of technology is shaping neural processing.
- Young people are exposed to digital stimulation for several hours every day, and many older adults are not far behind.
- Even using a computer for Web searches for just an hour a day changes the way the brain processes information. A constant barrage of e-contacts is both stimulating—sharpening certain cognitive skills—and draining, studies show.
You’re on a plane packed with other businesspeople, reading your electronic version of the Wall Street Journal on your laptop while downloading files to your BlackBerry and organizing your PowerPoint presentation for your first meeting when you reach New York. You relish the perfect symmetry of your schedule, to-do lists and phone book as you notice a woman in the next row entering little written notes into her leather-bound daily planner. You remember having one of those ... What? Like a zillion years ago? Hey, lady! Wake up and smell the computer age. You’re outside the airport now, waiting impatiently for a cab along with dozens of other people. It’s finally your turn, and as you reach for the taxi door a large man pushes in front of you, practically knocking you over. Your briefcase goes flying, and your laptop and BlackBerry splatter into pieces on the pavement. As you frantically gather up the remnants of your once perfectly scheduled life, the woman with the daily planner book gracefully steps into a cab and glides away.
The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but also is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains. Daily exposure to high technology—computers, smart phones, video games, search engines such as Google and Yahoo—stimulates brain cell alteration and neurotransmitter release, gradually strengthening new neural pathways in our brains while weakening old ones. Because of the current technological revolution, our brains are evolving right now—at a speed like never before.