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Table of Contents    
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 64  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 590-591

Internet: A boon or a bane?

Department of Neurology, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication3-May-2016

Correspondence Address:
U K Misra
Department of Neurology, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.181569

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How to cite this article:
Misra U K, Kalita J. Internet: A boon or a bane?. Neurol India 2016;64:590-1

How to cite this URL:
Misra U K, Kalita J. Internet: A boon or a bane?. Neurol India [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Aug 19];64:590-1. Available from: https://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2016/64/3/590/181569

One of the most significant advances of this century is computer technology which has resulted in easy access, storage and retrieval of information. Information technology is predicted to significantly affect our life in the next century. Miniaturization of computers will see its use as a component not only in phones but in wrist watches or even rings, rendering the information accessible as well as helping in defying the time barrier. “The difference between the 'nectar of life and poison' is the dose,” is an ancient concept which is relevant to information technology as well.

Easy, unlimited and almost instantaneous transfer of information has influenced patient care, teaching and research. Data capturing, storage, retrieval and analysis has provided large data sets to be accessed and analyzed for medical decision making. These exciting developments have overshadowed the subtle changes in the society and affected the relationships such as, between the doctor and patient, the teacher and taught, and the employer and employee. In Indian culture, the doctor-patient relationship has been equated with father and son (paternalistic medicine) and the teacher-taught relationship has been given importance greater than the creator (Brahma). These relationships are being eroded because of the ease of access and the abundance of information on the internet. Sometime, the patients get the downloads from a website and based on the information, start questioning the management decisions. A relationship of mutual trust, faith and dignity is getting replaced by commercial considerations and medicine is being practiced as a business or enterprise.

Easy and widespread availability of information has also affected the teacher and taught relationship. The student may feel that the electronic resources can replace the best teachers. Even some experts feel that the teacher can be replaced by online resources which not only provide latest information but may even demonstrate skills and technique. In the present milieu, it is important that the information available should be evaluated for its accuracy, authenticity and reproducibility. Moreover, the information needs biological treatment for behavior modification. Information has to be converted to knowledge and wisdom before it can become a part of the human mind which results in behavior modification. The information after being registered in the frontal cortex is stored in the temporal lobe and establishes integration with other areas and networks to form associations for bringing out changes in human behavior and attitude. If there is only too much of information without consolidation of memory and concept based learning, “the knowledge will remain a pile of sandal wood on the one carrying it without realizing its fragrance.”

Telemedicine is a great concept and has been used for patient care teaching in resource poor countries but one wonders if it can replace traditional teaching sessions on the patient, replace the classical ward teaching sessions or demonstration of a technique by the knowledgeable skilled expert. In our opinion, telemedicine will remain a second choice to the actual teaching or practice sessions.[1],[2]

With the information load, easy access, and ability to retrieve information round the clock, keeping information in the head may be considered a primitive idea. The knowledge storage may, therefore, shift from the brain to fingertips. Not only the medical information but even the personal details are being stored in the mobile chip. This may have far reaching effects on our future development and evolution. Human brain has evolved to survive and excel in new and even adverse situations. The ease of access of information and a reflex response reduces the time for consolidation of information, developing associations and concept formation. The changed physiology may result in structural changes in the brain. In internet game addicts, changes in brain circuits have been demonstrated using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), voxel based morphometry and functional MRI. In internet addicts, functional MRI reveals greater blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal in the cingulate cortex during the incongruent Stroop Trial. These results suggest an impaired inhibitory control and decreased cognitive efficiency in internet addicts.[3] Voxel based morphometry in internet game addicts reveals grey matter atrophy in right orbitofrontal cortex, bilateral insula and right supplementary motor cortex. Reduced functional anisotropy in the right genu, corpus callosum and frontal cortex white matter and right external capsule have been demonstrated.[4] Less usage of the memory circuits because of a palm top or mobile phone, the spatial circuits because of the Global Positioning System, writing skills because of typing, and verbal skills because of the ease and comfort of new technology may have serious implications. Such practices may lead to shrinkage of memory, and communication may reduce to short messages. The speed of information has abolished the emotion of expectation, waiting and happiness which occur on getting the new information after waiting for some time. Twenty-five centuries ago, Socrates dismissed writing as a technique that would implant forgetfulness in its users. In a survey at Trinity College, Dublin in 2007, 25% of participants under 30 years old could not remember their own phone number without consulting their handheld device. Only 40% of those under 30 years could remember family birthdays, compared to 87% of participants over the age of 50, thereby reinforcing the inevitable cost of technology. In another study on 286 subjects, excessive use of mobile phones resulted in a headache in 24.5%, impaired concentration in 34.3% and impaired memory impairment in 40.6% subjects.[5] It has been predicted that in 2020, the brains of multitasking teens and young adults will be networked differently than the brains of people older than 35 years. They will hardly be able to remember anything; most of the energy will be spent on exchanging short social messages or on entertainment; and, there will be a significant diversion from a really deep commitment to people and to knowledge.[6] The education system has to be sensitive to use the modern technology to maintain the development and evolution of human brain and prevent the development and propagation of new illnesses like digital dementia, depression, hyperkinetic attention deficits and hostilities which have been noted in subjects with an internet addiction [7] and are noted in developed societies. The intellectual skills of memorizing, drawing, writing, analyzing painting and maintaining the spatial orientation should not only be retained but developed, rather than be overlooked or even lost in the excitement of the digital revolution.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Misra UK, Kalita J, Mishra SK, Yadav RK. Telemedicine for distance education in neurology: Preliminary experience in India. J Telemed Telecare 2004;10:363-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
Misra UK, Kalita J, Mishra SK, Yadav RK. Telemedicine in neurology: Underutilized potential. Neurol India 2005;53:27-31.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Dang G, De Vito EE, Du X, Cui Z. Impaired inhibitory control in internet addiction disorder: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Psych Res 2012;203:153-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Wang CB, Qian RB, Fu XM, Lin B, Han XP, Niu CS, et al. Gray matter and white matter abnormalities in online game addicts. Eur J Radiol 2013;82:1308-12.  Back to cited text no. 4
Khan MM. Adverse effects of excessive mobile phone use. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2008;21:289-93.  Back to cited text no. 5
Rudolf H. The too frequent use of digital media reduces the mental capacity of our children. In: Mailing list 2013. December 4, DECT, Wi-Fi and WLAN Wireless system and Health EMF acts.  Back to cited text no. 6
Yen JU, Co CH, Yen CF, Wu HY, Yang HJ. Comorbid psychiatric symptoms of internet addiction: Attention deficit and hyperkinetic disorder (ADHD) depression, social phobia and hostility. J Addiction Health 2007;41:93-8.  Back to cited text no. 7


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