iBrain: How The Internet Is Changing Our Brains

Is the internet changing the way our brains work? That's the provocative question raised by UCLA neuroscientist Gary Small in his new book, "iBRAIN: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind." His equally provocative answer: yes, it is.

THE IDEA: All the multitasking, Internet searching and text messaging has made millennial brains particularly adept at filtering information and making snap decisions. At the same time, the tech-savvy people Small calls "digital natives" are less capable of reading faces or picking up subtle gestures. The reverse is true of their grandparents, whom Small dubs "digital immigrants." As technology spreads, Small suggests, natural selection will favor these newly wired brains, and older neural pathways will disappear, taking traditional communication skills with them.

THE EVIDENCE: fMRI studies are starting to show what we've long suspected: the persistent use of technology strengthens certain brain-activity patterns. In some users, Web surfing triggers reward pathways that have been linked to addiction. But proof that such changes weaken other brain regions, or that these changes can be inherited, is lacking.

THE CONCLUSION: The elasticity of the human brain means that you can have it all: reap the cognitive benefits offered by modern technology, avoid becoming an Internet junkie and preserve traditional social skills. The key, says Small, is to manage your time wisely.