Tuning In, Turning Off?

Tuning In, Turning Off?  –   Are we frying our brains?

A recent study indicated that multitasking with email, SMS messaging, cell phones, and various other communication media is changing the way we think and behave. We are undermining our ability to focus, and the immediate gratification that constant messaging provides can prove to be highly addictive. Other research shows that our brains get a little dopamine jolt when we get messages. It’s pleasurable and we want to do it again.

It’s becoming increasingly dangerous. Distracted driving is now the second-leading cause of accidents, after drunk driving. In some states texting while driving is considered equivalent to drinking and driving. And it’s getting worse. The new crop of smartphones with their app stores have added a level of multi-functionality that includes hundreds of thousands of possibilities.

It’s no surprise that our brains change in response to new stimuli. The brain incredibly elastic, adapting its neural connections to facilitate new inputs. The connections in the brain are dynamic, with an almost infinite number of possible ways to be wired. So our brains grow new connections all the time, changing the way that we think, react, and behave.

New technology has been altering the way we live for millennia. The invention of the alphabet made oral-tradition obsolete. Ever since Socrates people have fretted that new technology would erase the old ways. The key is to save the essence of what’s valuable, even if we have to embrace it in new ways. Like reading Shakespeare on an iPad. No one’s brain will get fried by that.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer

Follow me on Twitter @tengdin

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