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  • Patricia Faust

24/7 Brain Input


It seems absurd to think that our brains are on duty twenty-four hours a day. Even though this might be an exaggeration, our brain gets little down time in this digital world. Information is flooding in from all areas – 24/7 news outlets, email, texts, tweets, and cell phones. We are connected in a way that past generations had never experienced. What happens to our brains with this overwhelming amount of information passing through us?


Electronic Multitasking

It is rare to see people just sit in the park, or at the dinner table, or in the doctor’s office without accessing their cell phone to play a game, read emails, watch a movie or read a book. We allow ourselves no downtime to just let our mind wander for a little bit. This doesn’t seem to be much of a problem on the surface, but what is going on with a brain that never gets to relax? Even though you may think you are using time efficiently, researchers have discovered “that when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.” (New York Times, 2010). By continually multitasking with electronic equipment, you don’t give your brain a chance to learn and embed memory. When you have downtime, your brain reviews inputted information and decides what information will be stored in long-term memory. When you are constantly stimulating your brain, you inhibit this learning process.


The brain has a finite amount of energy for processing information. If you are in a quiet, peaceful environment your brain can easily process the information coming in. But walk along a busy urban street and the brain becomes overwhelmed from all of the information that is inundating you, and that results in fatigue. So even if you are mindlessly playing an electronic game, you are not refreshing your brain, you are causing it to fatigue.


An Attention Deficit Society

Another affect of constant access – you feel that you must continually stay current with emails, texts, tweets, or you lose the contact advantage of immediate reply. Everything happens so fast and if you don’t keep up - you lose. We have become an attention deficit society. We jump from one thing to another in order to stay current. We cannot even watch TV in a relaxed manner because we switch from show to show in order to eliminate the time spent on commercials.


Give Your Brain a Break

Your brain needs downtime! If you want to increase creativity, thinking skills and memory, stay focused on the event and let your brain sort out the details when it isn’t being inundated by more electronic input. You will maximize your brain’s abilities if you give it a break in the action.


Reference:

Richtel, M. (August 24, 2010). Digital devices deprive brain of needed downtime. Retrieved Aug. 25, 2010 from The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/technology/...

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