The most recent issue of The Prospect, a magazine that is the U.K. equivalent to, say, The Atlantic or Harper's contains an article concerning some recent developments in neuroscience and learning, by a guy named Tom Chatfield. Interesting, especially on the issue of the effects of electronic media on the development of cognition.
A literate brain is different, structurally, to an illiterate one. How these differences arise is almost impossible to trace during childhood, when the brain is changing for all manner of reasons. But experiments comparing literate and illiterate adults show a link with the size of the angular gyrus, an area of the brain associated with language, as well as different and more intense patterns of mental activity elsewhere.
We have long accepted literacy as a fundamental building-block of civilisation. Today, however, neurologists face related questions which are deeply troubling to many observers: if literacy changes our brains, what will a digitally literate brain (one shaped by interactions with digital media such as computers and videogames) look like—and what could this mean for the way we learn?
The evidence is thin, especially on the question of whether a childhood “screen culture” is developmentally damaging. Yet tantalising neurological research is beginning to emerge that uses interactive media to give us a more precise understanding of the workings of the brain and, in particular, the mechanisms underpinning memory, learning and motivation.The NeuroEducational research network, headed by neuropsychologist Paul Howard-Jones at Bristol University, is at the forefront of this work.