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Modern technology - Are our brains safe?

20th Aug 2015

Neuroscientist, Professor Susan Greenfield dips into one of her own tomes, writing for the MailOnline this week: ID: The Quest For Identity In The 21st Century warns that human identity could soon be in crisis thanks to damage that ‘the gadget-filled, pharmaceutically-enhanced 21st century is doing to our brains’. 

Greenfield points out that the brain is malleable up to early adulthood and beyond and can be transformed by the surrounding environment, changing in response to certain experiences and stimuli. As the world of technology is developing at such a fast pace (Greenfield sites the influence of multi-channel television, video games, MP3 players, the internet, wireless networks and Bluetooth links as some of many), she warns that our brains may be affected in ways we could not begin to imagine.

A similar theme is to be found in The Times technology section. The paper reports on a study written by Lee Hadlington, ‘Computers in Human Behaviour’, which suggests that those who spend too much time online are far more likely to be forgetful and to daydream. Haddlington is on the same page as Greenfield as he concurs that people are practically oblivious to the impact that technology has on their brains.

Greenfield has, in fact, written many books and papers on the topic (her recent book. ‘Mind Change’ also covers the adverse effects of information technology) and is clear on certain points. She is talking about the problems caused by overuse of the technologies among the younger generations ie. Teens who are consistently using technology throughout every waking hour as oppose to less intense regular bursts of use.

More importantly, she is trying to raise the flag on a number of issues that are worth debating on including the impact of social networking on identity, the effects of gaming on attention spans and what regular use of search engines does to memory and to learning. 

These are all valid and interesting points. The world is constantly changing and we shouldn’t be fearful of questioning some of those changes. It doesn’t make us anti-progression or antiquated in our approach if we seek out some answers. While our brains are still in gear we should use them to question and inform ourselves so that we can guide our kids and monitor their activities to a degree.

As long as we maintain a healthy curiosity about modern technology then our brains should stay relatively safe !