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Your Brain in the Digital Age

Sometimes the speed of technological advancement and the rate of change is awe-inspiring. In many cases new technology makes our lives easier. Just imagine living without the benefits of wireless communication or the ease of access to information on the Internet. But as technology makes some of our tasks easier, is it changing the way we think and process information? This issue is a current hot topic and there is no shortage of options. Please let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.

We discussed this very topic three years ago when we highlighted the Telegraph article Mobile phones ‘dumbing down brain power’. More recently NPR broadcasted a story (Digital Overload: Your Brain On Gadgets) on the topic of technology and its effects on the brain and author and speaker Nicholas Carr recently wrote in the Atlantic Monthly how the use of technology has changed the way he absorbs and processes information.

Mr. Carr’s perspective is that now that he gets most of his information via a computer screen (vs. printed media) he has changed the way he processes information and perhaps is even “remapping his neural circuitry.” He believes that he’s losing the ability to concentrate and stay focused on longer pieces of writing because he has gotten accustomed to scanning through lot of bits of information available via the Web.

So how do we find the balance and how do we minimize the negative effects of technology to our brain? A recent article in the New York Times, Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime, provides compelling arguments that our brain needs downtime in order to digest things we’ve experienced while active.

As we discussed in the previous entry 5 Strategies to Improve Memory de-stressing is a scientifically accepted way to improve your memory and other cognitive abilities. However, digital devices give us instant access to information and can increase stress. If an email comes in to our inbox we feel compelled to react, which in reality is a mild fight or flight response that is often associated with stressful events.

Technology is great! It is the reason we are living longer, staying more connected, and better informed than any other society in history. However, technology should work for us, not against us. Here are a few tips to assist you achieve this:

  • Set self-imposed limits. It is okay to turn off your Blackberry once in awhile.
  • Invoke your power to say no. Technology makes it easy for people to fire requests at you without knowing your current load. Some people feel the need to field every request that comes their way. If you are overloaded or overwhelmed make sure that is communicated.
  • Take a vacation from technology. Go on a fast from information for a week (or two). There is a very good chance the world will still be here when you return.