Your Brain on Google

Today’s technology offers many entertaining diversions that make it easier than ever to get sidetracked from the task at hand. But research shows that there is an upside to these distractions.

Searching online triggers neurocircuits that really activate the brain and “may even be a form of brain exercise,” says Dr. Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA. He cites studies that indicate that surgeons who play video games make fewer mistakes. Most interesting, brain scans show that a greater portion of the brain—almost two times greater—is activated by surfing the Net than by reading a book. The greatest increase in activity can be seen in the front portion of the brain, which is where thinking and decision-making occur.

While studies aren’t conclusive, the research indicates that when technology is used in a reasonable and balanced way, it could potentially improve short-term memory for older adults and help children with ADHD learn to focus their attention as needed.

But what about those of us who are masters of multitasking and are plugged into technology 24/7? “I tend to be one of those people who juggle a million different things at once,” says Small. “But I find that if I turn off the technology and focus on a single project, I’m stunned by how much I can get done in a short period of time.”

Technology can be a very good thing, he adds, but “too much of a good thing isn’t good. Balance is an important principle to keep in mind.”

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