May 10, 2010 | By Eric Sorensen | No Comments »
Categories: Biological sciences, Neuroscience, Science, veterinary medicine
Tags: brain, brain research, Eric Sorensen, Google, Googlers, Jaak Panksepp, reading, research, Science, thinking, thought, Washington State University, WSU
To continue on the question of whether Google makes us smarter:
Last week we noted new research showing that the brains of veteran Google searchers have more active neural circuits and brain regions while searching than novices.
The poster of the item added this smart-aleck remark—“I’m no neuroscientist, but it sounds like Google is making them smarter.” An actively thinking reader agreed, at least on the “no neuroscientist part.” She then added, “You can’t judge the quality or depth of thought by mere ‘brain activity.’ Indeed, a calm brain is often the sign of a thoughtful brain.”
So which is more thoughtful–a calm brain or an active brain? For an answer, we returned to an actual neuroscientist, WSU’s Jaak Panksepp. His bottom line: It’s all good food for thought.
“Yes,” he wrote in an email, “abundant brain research does show that experts can proceed with a cognitive task by using their brain more efficiently, which is often reflected in less brain arousal than exhibited by novices. Of course, the fly in the ointment is that each type of cognitive task needs to be taken on its own terms.
“With regard to the Internet, one could imagine that greater recruiting of diverse brain networks is a sign of sophisticated thinking. However, this is just an interpretation rather than an established fact. In this same vein, it may be worth noting that expert Zen meditators exhibit massive arousal of frontal lobe regions compared to novices. What all these brain ‘correlates’ mean remains open to multiple interpretations. As usual, correlates are not easily translated into causes, although they provide useful raw material for creative thinking about such ultra-complex BrainMind issues.”