Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Your brain on computers

My life is enriched by three Freds who are among my friends. One of the Freds recommended that I read this article from the New York Times.

This Fred was possibly trying to suggest that I am too wired, too "on the grid," as they say these days. Or maybe not. This Fred is very subtle.

The gist of this article is that going "off the grid" --- disconnecting from cellphones, WiFi, the web, your blog, eMail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, multitasking --- at least temporarily, can be good for you.

The article describes five neuroscientists who did just that, rafting Utah's San Juan River and hiking its canyons for a week. They were interested in discovering whether such a trip might reverse the effects of the digital information bombardment of their "normal" lives.

There is a growing belief that the constant incoming data stream affects people's ability to focus. In my own case, it might be that, or it might be the gin and tonics.

Some believe that daily digital stimulation can even tip some people, who would normally be OK, into attention deficit disorder, depression, or schizophrenia.

Can wandering around in the woods be restorative? A University of Michigan study showed it improves the ability to learn.

My friend Fred says, "In my own experience, even walking in the forest on my horse for a few hours refreshes my thinking."

Personally, I'm not really a nature guy. I find looking at trees or rocks or lakes gets boring real fast unless there is something else going on, like golf. But maybe I need to give it a chance. I'll put it on the bucket list.

By the third day of the trip, time slows down for the neuroscientists. There is no sense of urgency. They are relaxing, forgetting to wear their watches.

But, on the way home, they start to check eMail. Re-entry into the "real" world.

Conclusions? None. Remember, these are scientists. One can hypothesize, but conclusions require proof (Bloggers are not subject to this rule). Some new research directions have been suggested by the trip, though. These include the addictiveness of digital stimulation and the effects of rest on the brain.

Thought-provoking stuff. Turn off your phone and read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment