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Brain Studies – this is your brain on computers …


A stream of new brain studies have begun to reveal what many have suspected for some time now – that interacting with so much gadgetry every day is having some seriously negative effects on our health.

It is estimated that people now consume about three times as much media generated


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information – TV, Internet, email, etc. – per day than they did 50 years ago.  That’s a whole lot of new input to process that this human organism has had little time to get ready for.

It also creates a constantly shifting attention, which scientists are starting to believe is causing strain on our most basic of brain functions – things like attention span and focus, for instance.

Evolution and adaptation is the hallmark of nature, our species included, but big changes in the way organisms function traditionally happen slowly, over large tracks of time. All of a sudden, though, we humans find ourselves in a world of non-stop interactivity – in constant virtual connection to streams of data and information – and many brain studies are now giving us reasons to feel very concerned about that.

Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco says that “We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do … [and] we know already there are consequences.”

It has often been assumed that multitasking, something that has been greatly facilitated by all our new gadgets, leads to an increase in our brain’s capacity to process and react. New brain studies, however, are painting a much different picture.

Scientists are now telling us that our ability to focus is being undermined by all these bursts of information. They also surmise that these constant media inputs play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats – essentially provoking a hormone induced sense of excitement, which researchers say can be addictive. Those who are addicted to this digital stimulation feel bored or even anxious when they are temporarily “unplugged” so to speak.

When it comes to multitasking, however, scientists now sense that it does not make us more efficient or effective in our work. In fact, research seems to show otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, and they experience more stress too. To top it off, scientists have also observed that, even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist.

“The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists – and not necessarily in a good way.

Some brain studies, however, show that technology use can benefit our mental functions too. Frequent Internet users, for instance, become more efficient at finding information, while playing video games can help to develop better visual acuity.

Of course, technology has automated mundane tasks, shrunk distances, and given us much greater mobility, in the end freeing up our time and giving us more of an opportunity to cultivate health enhancing and relationship building activities.

So the double edge sword of technology provides opportunity as well as hazards, which means that, in the end, nothing about life has really changed too much. Leading a healthy, happy, fulfilling and evolutionary life still requires discernment, awareness, and an ever-vigilant self-examination – those yogic qualities that keep us moving forward, and not backwards on this journey of life.

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The following article series explores more brain studies examining how the surge of data inundating us through technology is affecting the way we think and act.

Attached to Technology and Paying a Price

The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In

Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain

An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness

More Americans Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-In Existence


About the Author:

Yogacharya is the director of TheYogaTutor.com, and Editor of The Yoga News

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