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Thursday August 26, 2010 4:35 pm

Are smartphones dumbing us down?


cellphone multitask

The term ‘smartphone’ may be a tad misleading according to the recently published New York Times article, “Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime”. This is to say that frequent use of digital media can disrupt your brain’s downtime - a necessary component of internalizing information. Without this downtime, the brain has no chance to process information previously learned, resulting in cluttered, inattentive minds.

Chances are there are more than a few of you reading this article while accomplishing some cardio riding your local gym’s indoor bike, or while in class when you really should be listening to your professor’s first lecture of the semester (but don’t stop reading now on account of that!). While having a digital device handy is excellent for spicing up mundane moments, or for capturing your mind away from the tedium of exercising, it does come at a price.


Users of digital devices tend to become obsessed with augmenting dull moments of their time with their phones, tablets, and laptops. It goes without saying that digital devices are a great way to pass the time and to remain busy, but how busy is too busy? With our incessant need to compulsively communicate and stay in touch we are fatiguing our minds to the point that we do not benefit from our experiences and surrounding environments. The need to stay relevant and on the grid sucks away precious brain recovery time, and slows down our processing to a screeching halt. Scientists at the University of California came to discover the effects of constant digital stimulation on brain processing power through rat testing. Whenever the rats where in a strange place, their brains lighted up with activity. However, it wasn’t until the rats were given a break from exploration that they seemed to truly process what they just experienced, forming a concrete memory of their reality.

Being bombarded constantly by stimulation from digital devices takes away invaluable moments from the brain to reset itself and form a true realization of our experiences. Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the University of California states, “almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories.” By constantly being glued to some form of digital media, be it phone, computer, or TV; you curb the natural learning process of the brain.

Think of your mind as a storage closet. If you keep filling it with contents you’re going to start losing track of where you put what. In order to keep our brains functioning the way they are meant to, it is important to take some time to let our minds clear, so it can naturally rearrange and optimize its contents. If not, then maybe they will make an app for that.

Read More | New York Times

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