The Use Of Electronic Devices Can Cause Difficulties In Understanding Scientific Information

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The Use Of Electronic Devices Can Cause Difficulties In Understanding Scientific Information
The Use Of Electronic Devices Can Cause Difficulties In Understanding Scientific Information

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The use of electronic devices can cause difficulties in understanding scientific information

Constant text messaging using a smartphone or reading on a tablet negatively affects the activity of brain regions that are critical for summarizing information from multiple sources and shifting attention. This connection was established by researchers from the United States.

The use of electronic devices can cause difficulties in understanding scientific information
The use of electronic devices can cause difficulties in understanding scientific information

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According to American researchers, excessive use of electronic devices - smartphones and tablets - can weaken the activity of those areas of the brain that are key to understanding scientific texts. The research results are published in Scientific Reports.

The study was conducted with the participation of 51 students. The authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor the participants' brain activity. The students were given the task to read five scientific articles while in an MRI scanner. Articles covered topics of exact and natural sciences: mathematics, astronomy, physics and ecology. At the same time, scientists tracked participants' eye movements to better understand how readers study scientific texts.

During monitoring, it was found that the frequent use of electronic devices negatively affects the left central lobe of the brain and the inferior frontal gyrus. According to Ping Li, deputy director of the Pennsylvania Institute of Cyber ​​Science (USA), emeritus professor of psychology, linguistics, information science and technology, these areas of the brain play an important role in information processing, concentration and language understanding.

“We know that the inferior frontal gyrus is involved in understanding the lexical and grammatical meanings of words. This area is less active in people who constantly use electronic devices, explained Lee. - The central lobe is associated with cognitive tasks such as switching attention. For example, it is activated when you start dreaming while reading a text, and a school teacher or university teacher suddenly asks you to pay attention to a certain part of the text."

It has been found that constant text messaging using a smartphone or reading on a tablet negatively affects the activity of these brain regions, which are critical for summarizing information from several sources.

Descriptive texts, as in textbook sections, usually contain information that is hierarchically related to other texts. To master it, readers need to generalize several texts and structure them hierarchically. "If people overuse electronic devices on a daily basis, it can weaken their ability to hierarchically structure information," Lee said.

The researchers suggest that the brain works like muscle training. With frequent use of certain muscles, others that are rarely used will weaken. The same happens with areas of the brain. Thus, people who constantly scan texts in devices or write short fragmentary messages do not train the ability to perceive long conceptual articles containing many ideas and concepts.

“If you cannot understand hierarchically structured information, you will not grasp the essence of the concepts,” Lee said. - Scientific theories and knowledge is not a random combination of sentences or fragments of text, but a system of key concepts, organized hierarchically. Many students today have problems with the perception of such knowledge."

The findings of American scientists echo their earlier 2017 study. Then it was revealed that people who often use electronic devices are less successful in tests on reading comprehension of scientific text.

“It is important to note that we did not establish a causal relationship, but showed a correlation between the activity of the two brain regions and the excessive use of smartphones and tablets,” said Lee.

However, the results obtained and further research in this area can be useful for teachers in educational institutions to understand the consequences of getting too close to electronic devices.

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