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iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind Paperback – October 6, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

According to Vorgan (The Memory Bible) and Small, one of America's leading neuroscientists, digital technology has altered the neural circuitry in human brains and triggered an evolutionary process in just one generation. The authors identify the inherent problems and challenges this poses, providing a technology toolkit filled with strategies to preserve one's humanity and keep up with the latest technology. They make their case based on abundant research in the areas of health, psychology, pediatrics, education, business, and technology. Their exercises include developing face-to-face communication skills as well as mastering electronic games. A compelling as well as timely read, this is highly recommended for all libraries.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A valuable road map for the race to stay on track during the current evolution of the brain." -- Terry Semel, CEO, Windsor Media; former CEO, Yahoo!

"A book about your brain that should make you think-twice." -- Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061340340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061340345
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Vita M. Haake on April 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
iBrain, written by Dr. Gary Small - a neuroscientist and director of the Memory & Aging Research Center at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior - paints a picture of the complex human brain in words that are easy for those without a science background to understand. iBrain's main focus is to educate and caution readers about damage that frequent technology use can have on interpersonal skills - an area that Dr. Small posits is a strength that "digital immigrants" (those over age 30) have over "digital natives" (those under 30 who have been exposed to technology their entire lives.)

The book starts by explaining how the human brain develops at different stages of life - malleable in both children and adults, and at it's prime in middle age. Dr. Small cites several studies in both children and adults that tie frequent technology use to conditions such as ADD, ADHD, Autism, depression, anxiety, and even sociopathic behavior. Dr. Small cautions that the damage of frequent technology use is especially prevalent for children under eight years old. The news is not entirely dismal, however; he also cites studies that show strengths in cognitive abilities that can be attributed to searching the Internet and using similar technologies.

A recurring theme in iBrain is the issue of multitasking. Dr. Small attempts to prove that multitasking is not beneficial to productivity or attention levels. He explains that a condition called "continuous partial attention" is plaguing those that use the Internet frequently. This condition is described as "keeping tabs on everything but not really focusing on anything." This phenomena can also lead to "techno brain burnout," something that Dr.
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Format: Hardcover
Say you want an evolution?

iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind by Gary Small, M.D. and Gigi Vorgan

Dr. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan's iBrain is a fascinating book that details how technology is changing our brains. Their main thesis is that our brains and the brains of our children are much more plastic and changeable than we have been led to believe. They differentiate between digital immigrants: people who had to learn technology such as computers and cell phones as adults, and digital natives: people who have known technology since birth. The good news for middle-aged digital immigrants is that we have the advantage over older ones and the younger natives, because our brains are plastic enough to respond to and learn new technologies than older brains, but we retain the social skills that native sometimes lack.

My son has a mild form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, so I panicked for a moment. Did I let him watch television too much when he was younger. Play on the computer? No and no-he wasn't interested thankfully. But he is now, and I was surprised to learn that digital natives suffer some of the same symptoms as autistic individuals: lack of eye contact; a just-the-facts approach to communication, and a lack of give-and-take in conversation. So now that he's a PSP fanatic, is my son's Asperger's getting worse? I don't think so. He has enough else going on. According to iBrain, that seems to be the key. All electronics and no face time, makes for digital natives that have poor social skills, so it is very important to reinforce human connection away from electronic devices.
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I have read Small's book "iBrain" over the last couple of days and am very unimpressed.

I suppose by Small's description of Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives, I am an early immigrant or perhaps a "pioneer" --- I went online in my early 20s connecting to the first online communities (dial-up bulletin boards in the early 80s). My brain was still a little plastic then, I suppose, so I'm like someone who immigrates as a young adult.

It seems to me Dr. Small set about to write a book that would appeal to the fears of the digital immigrants, the fears of all parents, and the disparaging emotions of those who just generally feel that the world is going to the dogs.

Dr. Small's writing is full of emotionally laden language. Teenagers don't just look at computer screens, they "stare". Their music doesn't play, it "blares". Each chapter is prefaced by a short horror story about a cyberaddicted person. Do-it-yourself "assessment tests" at the back of the book ask questions that would lead most honest people to worry about themselves -- and even more likely, to fill in the answers for their spouse or child in a negative way.

Small conflates TV with computer use in much of his writing; despite their similar screens they are completely different. He reports early in the book that "a recent Kaiser study found that young people eight to eighteen years of age expose their brains to eight and a half hours of digital and video sensory stimulation each day." Note his choice of words: "expose their brains to...". Not "experience" or "use", but "expose their brains"; like exposure to radiation. His choice of words already betrays his judgment and seeks to set the reader's bias. But the study notes that only one hour of this is using the computer!
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