Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 5th 2015 Contents field asks an updated existential
question of online communica-
tions, "If I don t draw attention
and engagement online ---do I
"The brain will incessantly
adapt," said Greenfield.
Gaming, for instance is great
for brain plasticity, but she is con-
cerned about what is being
Fifty per cent of popular games
offer violent content and such
games inevitably lead to desen-
sitization and increased states of
These games also increase
dopamine production, reducing
Greenfield identifies two modes
of the human brain; one con-
cerned with the meaningless and
the other with the meaningful.
Meaningless pursuits are
immediate, confectionery, thrill-
of-the-moment choices which
trump consequences and the
resulting dopamine release pro-
vides an immediate reward for
those who choose to "release and
to let go."
Such behaviour encourages
addictive cycles as the brain seeks
more surges of dopamine release.
Meaningful activities encourage
deeper contemplation. Reading a
long book and engaging with
complicated storylines play a very
different role in brain develop-
In the Q&A that followed at
the Chamber event, several folks
seemed to be seeking validation
about their perception of the
impact of technology.
But while there didn t seem to
be many champions of rampant
technology, the Baroness
remained scrupulously neutral in
her evaluation of the impact of
computing, though she admitted
a preference for the haptic feed-
back of a book read in print
instead of on a tablet.
Bridging the gap between infor-
mation and knowledge, the sen-
sory engagement with data and
the capacity to analyse and lever-
age it remains a challenge at the
core of digital interaction.
Computers have given us
unprecedented and astonishing
access to masses of raw data, but
have also stripped away the
markers that enable us to make
better use of it.
Until that gap is bridged, mov-
ing from access to information
to the development of new ideas
and concepts, the fresh pivoting
of established knowledge in
unprecedented ways will be need-
It s critical to challenge the
mind to understand and query
rather than to simply accept an
Internet s worth of facts.
"The world," she lamented, "is
answer rich and question poor."
Listen to a discussion
between Baroness Greenfield
and architect Mark Raymond
Baroness Susan Greenfield
launched this year s Bocas Lit Fest
literary festival with a talk at the T&T
Chamber of Commerce last Monday.
As you might expect, the Baroness
has a book out, Mind Change, which
discusses the way that modern tech-
nology affects the way the mind
Greenfield is a neuroscientist with
an easy conversational style in person
and a sensible, levelheaded way of
making her points that s seductively
Greenfield backs up her theories
with hard research into the way the
brain works and the fundamental
changes that an increasingly screen-
based culture is wreaking on the way
we think, the way we picture ourselves
and the way that culture and human
interaction have fundamentally
changed in the high-speed arena of
social media interaction.
At the core of her thinking is the
idea of the individual.
"Nobody s ever wanted a brain
transplant," Greenfield notes, under-
lining the importance of the self to
everyone s world view.
Baroness Greenfield is a witty and
charming speaker, quite keen to pivot
the seriousness of her subject matter
with humour and sudden, sharp
groundings in reality.
Repeated behaviours, she explained,
have a profound effect of the hip-
pocampus, but it s a change that can
happen either through direct physical
action or mental practice.
Imagining that a thing has happened
can change your brain almost as effec-
tively as actually doing it.
"Thinking," Greenfield explained,
"is movement confined to the brain."
And that makes all the difference
in a world in which enriched envi-
ronments, whether real or digitally
crafted, can create and amplify brain
The obverse of this, dementia, is
the progressive dismantling and
shrinking of these brain connections.
These physical changes are tied to
the development of the mind as it
develops from one which is engrossed
in the purely sensory to cognition, the
evaluation of that sensory input in order
to construct an ordered reality.
The neuroscientist is concerned
about the impact of a pervasive com-
puting reality in the face of these find-
ings, particularly one in which she
notes, "we now spend more time in
front of a screen than in bed."
The impact of social media, a medi-
um that removes all but one of the
traditional cues of interpersonal com-
munication, removing eye contact,
evaluation of the tone, rate and volume
of a voice, body language, physical
contact and pheromones, leaves just
words, which carry 10 per cent of nor-
mal communication value.
In the face of this, Baroness Green-
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Baroness Susan Greenfield discusses her neuroscience findings at the Chamber.
PHOTO: MARK LYNDERSAY
The plastic mind
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