update: The BBC reports on October 14, 2008:
Areas activated by reading a book in the brain of an experienced web user:
Web use stimulates much more activity in the same brain:
Brain activity in web newcomers: similar for reading and internet use:
Researchers have conducted a study with results that suggest that changes in brain activity in experienced web user are observable and significant. Via Slashdot, the Washington Post reports on October 15, 2008:
Searching the Internet may help middle-aged and older adults keep their memories sharp, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles studied people doing Web searches while their brain activity was recorded with functional magnetic resonance imaging scans.
“What we saw was people who had Internet experience used more of their brain during the search,” Dr. Gary Small, a UCLA expert on aging, said in a telephone interview.
“This suggests that just searching on the Internet may train the brain — that it may keep it active and healthy,” said Small, whose research appears in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
[…] He said it appears that people who are familiar with the Internet can engage in a much deeper level of brain activity.
So for those people who learn how to use the Internet, it sounds like they become capable of a new kind of thinking that is more active and healthier for the brain.
particularly this: From Kwan, R., Chan, C., & Lui, A. (2004). Reaching an ITopia in distance learning—A case study. AACE Journal, 12(2), 171-187. [pdf] :
“hypertext as a cognitive tool”