What is the real world of neuroplasticity

"If you don't have attention disorder, you can train yourself through multitasking"

Will the Internet change our thinking in the long term?

Manfred Spitzer:
Because everything we think and the way we think affects our thinking in the long term, the answer to this question from the point of view of neuroscience can only be "yes". Perhaps the most important finding from the past two decades of neuroscience is called "neuroplasticity", which means precisely this fact: The brain is "hardware" that constantly adapts to the "software" running on it (read: our experiences and all of us Mental life). The brain can be compared to a muscle that becomes weaker when it is not needed. Similarly, if you have a satellite navigation device in your car and use it permanently to get from A to B, you will have difficulties once it breaks. Even if he has driven the route many times, he may have trouble doing so without assistance, simply because he has paid little attention to navigating. So he didn't even save where it went. Secondly, he has forgotten or at least partially forgotten how to navigate himself, i.e. how to find his way quickly using landmarks, maps, etc.

And does online consumption affect the organization of brain structures?


Again, the answer is "yes". I would like to prove this with a few examples from recent literature: In the USA, the average daily media consumption of adolescents is 10 hours and 45 minutes, which adolescents spend in 7 hours and 38 minutes. This means that they often use several media at the same time, which reduces the overall lifespan of media use accordingly. This so-called "media multitasking" is now described by some as the latest intellectual achievement of the young generation, which it is important to promote and master. A corresponding study of the mental performance of people who do a lot of media multitasking (compared to people who do not) showed, however, that all skills that play a role in multitasking turn out worse in corresponding tests with multitaskers. Multitaskers cannot concentrate so well on the essentials, are more easily distracted and cannot even switch between different tasks better than non-multitaskers. On the contrary: you can do all of this much worse. In other words, if you don't have attention disorder yet, you can train yourself to multitask. We therefore urgently advise against this multimedia bad habit, which has meanwhile also become widespread in this country!

A study from our laboratories was able to show that it is by no means irrelevant how we learn objects in the world, that is, how we appropriate the world: If this happens by dealing with the real world, our motor skills are used in this interaction and in It creates memory traces as well as in the areas of visual and acoustic processing. So anyone who literally "grasps" the world has learned it more profoundly. We were able to show that this has a significant impact on the quality of the processing of the information learned: Those who have learned things by hand can think about them more efficiently. The affects were very clear, and it was also a matter of pure thinking, not just mentally handling the objects, but thinking about them. From this it follows directly: Anyone who appropriates the world with a click of the mouse only has a comparatively flat or weak image of it in their head and later, when thinking about things in this world, they can by no means keep up with those who opened up the real world with all their senses Has. Those who only see things while learning and point to them (mouse click) later have less activity in areas of the frontal brain when thinking about them.

When reading, is information processed fundamentally differently when one receives text on a flat medium (computer screen, e-book display) instead of on a medium that is also spatially extended (printed book)?

The answer to this question is more likely to be "no". E-books also have haptic qualities, and many users really appreciate the haptic properties of touching their iPad! On the other hand, the question is still unanswered as to whether handling electronic reading devices compared to handling books might lead to more flipping back and forth and less reading in one go. This is at least one observation that is currently shared by a number of people: People tend to eat content to be read in small bites and less in large chunks. So you will read the newspaper more on the iPad and probably not Tolstoy's "War and Peace". But this is less due to the fact that the iPad is flatter than the "book ham" and also not to the fact that books smell and simply feel like books. Rather, this is due to the fact that you can have many different things available at the same time on an electronic reader. Users with a lot of impatience and little self-discipline will therefore be more inclined to try something else quickly when they have "dry spells in a book". If you are just lying on the coach with the ham, you have to get up and go to your bookcase, which you may be too lazy to do. However, if the new content is a finger movement on the glass screen, the interruption of the dry spell is easier. Human beings are not only mind, but also body and all mental achievements are also embodied accordingly. People tend to be indolent, which the proverbial coach potato in front of the television screen illustrates only too clearly. Electronic media, which supposedly "make life easier" for us, have serious consequences for our body and mind. We should think about it instead of surrendering to it. Whether electronic media is a curse or a blessing ultimately depends on the way we use it.

Michael Roesler-Graichen asked the questions.

To person

Manfred Spitzer has been Professor of Psychiatry at Ulm University since 1997. He is also the head of the Transfer Center for Neuroscience and Learning, which he founded. Spitzer is the author of numerous neuroscientific bestsellers, which have been published by Schattauer Verlag, among others.