Your Smart-Phone May be Harming Your Brain Without You Realizing

Ever since cell phones first came out, people have been debating whether or not they’re bad for the brain. In a recent Special Edition of Time Magazine devoted to Mindfulness, journalist Markham Heid summarizes a body of research which suggests that the neurological toll exerted by hand-held electronic devices may be even worse than originally supposed.

In fact, electronic devices negatively effect the very areas of our brain needed for effective work, study, thought and memory.

Heid’s article, ‘Are My Devices Messing With My Brain?’ is available to read on Time Magazine’s website, and points out that:

  • “switch cost” (the loss of focus when we’re pulled away from a task, even if only for a split second to glance at a message) has an effect on the brain’s ability to focus that lasts up to 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Research suggests that the types of multi-tasking we do when we are working or studying in the presence of hand-held electronic devices is associated with a decline in gray matter in the part of the brain involved with thought and emotional control.
  • Studies show that hand-held electronic devices bombard the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in willpower and decision-making.
  • “…there’s evidence that as your brain becomes accustomed to checking a device every few minutes, it will struggle to stay on task even at those times when it’s not interrupted by digital alerts.”

Heid’s observations were echoed by Mandy Oaklander, who also contributed an article to the Special Edition of Time. Oaklander points out that, “Even if you’re not using it, simply being able to see a cellphone hinders your ability to focus on tough tasks, a pair of 2014 studies found.”

Bottom line: when you need to concentrate on something important, whether its studying for the EPPP or performing a task at work, make sure your smart-phone is in another room and your email is turned off.

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