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Computers Changing The Way We Learn

Update Date: Dec 20, 2013 09:51 AM EST

Pointing and clicking changes the way our brain perceives movements and learns new things, a new study has reported. On average, computer users perform around 7,400 mouse clicks every week.

“Computers produce this problem that screens are of different sizes and mice have different gains,” said Konrad Kording of Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in a press release. “We want to quickly learn about these so that we do not need to relearn all possible movements once we switch to a new computer. If you have broad generalization, then you need to move the mouse just once, and there you are calibrated.”

In their study researchers found that both computer users and non-users learned at the same pace how to move a cursor while hiding their hands from view. However, computer-experienced users were more readily generalized what they learned about movements of the cursor in one direction, compared to movements made in different directions.

The research also showed that computer use not only changed our lifestyle but also fundamentally affected the neural representation of our movements.

“Our data revealed that generalization has to be learned, and we should not expect it to happen automatically,” said study first author Kunlin Wei from China’s Peking University in the press release. “The big question in the clinic setting is whether supervised rehabilitation can lead to functional improvement at home. Thus, the next natural step for us is to experiment on how to make this generalization from clinics to home happen more effectively.”

“If we could make patients generalize perfectly from robotic training in the hospital to drinking tea at home, then training in the hospital would maximally improve everyday life,” Kording added.

The study is published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

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