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Internet changing brains, claims UCLA scientist

Antony Savvas

The web is altering the way our brains work, according to a scientist from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA in California, said people more familiar with technology will go to the top of a new social order.

Gary Small found internet searching and text messaging has made brains more adept at filtering information and making snap decisions.

But Small told Reuters technology can can have drawbacks. It can create internet addicts whose only friends are virtual. He believes the web has also sparked a dramatic rise in Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses.

The most successful people will have a mix of technology and social skills, said Small.

Small told Reuters: "We're seeing an evolutionary change. The people in the next generation who are really going to have the edge are the ones who master the technological skills and also face-to-face skills.

"They will know when the best response to an e-mail or instant message is to talk rather than sit and continue to e-mail."

In a new book, "iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind", Small looks at how technology has altered the way young minds develop, function and interpret information.

Small says experienced internet users showed double the activity in the areas of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning when compared to internet beginners.

"The brain is very specialised in its circuitry and if you repeat mental tasks over and over it will strengthen certain neural circuits and ignore others," Small told Reuters.

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