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Old 10-29-2009, 03:01 AM   #1
danbloom
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People who "read" on computer screens and Kindles have rewired brains?

Some future news report might look like this. Then again, it might not. This story is just food for thought, for now. Read slowly.

From wire agencies and news agencies combined:

People who "read" on computer screens and Kindles have rewired brains: scientists report



(NEW YORK) -- Neuroscientists have discovered that reading on compter screens or Kindle e-reader screens causes changes in white matter, the nerve strands which help different parts of the brain communicate with each other.

University researchers recruited 48 young adults who do most of their reading on computer screens and e-readers -- and hardly ever read text on paper surfaces anymore -- and put them in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to get a cross-section map of their brain.

Half the volunteers then underwent a six-week period where they read online and on a Kindle or a SONY E-reader device, during which they were encouraged to do this for four hours a day.

During the experiment, they never read print newspapers or magazines or books.

They were then scanned again, as were their 24 non-screem-reading counterparts. who also read for four hours a day but on paper books, newspapers and magazines.

Among the screen-reading group, imaging showed important changes in white matter, the bundle of long nerve fibres that carry electrical signals between nerve cells and connect different areas of the brain.

So-called grey matter consists of areas of nerve cells where the brain processes information.

The findings, published online now, are important, for they suggest the brain remains "plastic" -- or mobile and adaptable -- beyond childhood.

"We tend to think of the brain as being static, or even beginning to degenerate, once we reach adulthood," the study's leader said in a press release.

"In fact we find the structure of the brain is ripe for change. We've shown that it is possible for the brain to condition its own wiring system to operate in a different manner when reading on paper or when reading on a screen."

Reading on a screen, compared to reading on paper surfaces, was selected for the experiment because it is a difficult motor skill to master, which means that any cerebral changes would show up more readily.

To read online or on a Kindle requires a new kind of understanding of reading, and the ability to track text using screened pixels.

In fact changes in white matter seen after six weeks occurred precisely in those parts of the brain that are involved in these tasks.

"This doesn't mean everyone should go out and start screen-reading to improve their brains," said the study team leader.

"We chose screen-reading purely as a way to try to show the differences between reading on paper and reading on a scren. But there is a 'use it or lose it' school of thought, in which any way of keeping the brain working is a good thing, such as going for a walk or doing a crossword."

He said clinical applications could eventually follow, such as ways to stimulate the brain and maintain neurological health for both paper readers and screen-readers.

"Knowing that pathways in the brain can be enhanced may be significant in the long run in coming up with new treatments for certain neurological problems, such as lack of critical analysis skills, where these pathways become degraded among longterm screen-readers."
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Old 10-29-2009, 03:41 AM   #2
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http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/classifie...rewired-brains
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Old 10-29-2009, 03:53 AM   #3
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GAH!

You mean there'd be no control over LCD screen vs epaper screens? What sort of half-arsed research would THAT be???

Edited to add: The above comment may say more about my current mood and blood sugar levels than my thought processes...
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Old 10-29-2009, 03:58 AM   #4
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Welll, good article and I can imagine one day we may see such studies, however there is already ample research which indicates that while the plasticity of the brain reduces over times, it remains open to change and neural development throughout the lifespan.
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Old 10-29-2009, 08:28 AM   #5
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Uh huh. I've got a better idea:

Wait until someone actually does some relevant research. Then discuss it.

Offhand I see no particular reason why reading from a screen or an ebook reader is so different that it will result in a noticeable neurological change. Juggling, on the other hand, does -- as you're acquiring a new skillset that involves alterations to several regions of the brain.
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Old 10-29-2009, 09:48 AM   #6
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So the bottomline is "people who do different things are different"?
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Old 10-29-2009, 11:40 AM   #7
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It rewires your brain and turns you into book-burning Nazis.
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Old 10-29-2009, 11:55 AM   #8
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Right now I have five screens in front of me - 4 LCD and one Eink - and there's text on all of them. It certainly doesn't feel like I'm doing different things when I'm reading from different screens.

I could understand the idea that there could be a major difference between reading from a CRT with a 60Hz refresh on one hand and EInk on the other - but the OP seems to be thinking we should link both together and put paper on the other side.

I think the biggest differences would come from reading straight text vs. reading documents with lots of hyperlinks and banner ads on the side etc. In that case there's a real difference because there are more choices to make - but it's what's being read not the medium.
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