Multitasking with Technology Can Rewire Your Brain
You probably don't think twice about using your iPhone during your favorite show, but it may rewire your mind (and not in a good way!)
Whether you're texting in real time about the Mad Men season premiere, trying to get work done while watching a movie with your family, or just online shopping while you veg out, tech-heavy multitasking is doing terrible things to your brain. Switching focus between screens causes you to store less information in your memory, releases hormones that impair your thought process, and may even lower your IQ, a new study shows. (Are You Too Attached to Your iPhone?)
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen asked people to use their smartphones or tablets while watching TV. Participants felt like using multiple gadgets made them more productive and efficient, but after testing them, researchers found that only a little over half of the people could remember what had been on TV. Freaky! (That's not the only way Your Cell Phone Is Ruining Your Downtime.)
When you focus on one task at a time, your brain takes in information and stores it in the hippocampus, where it's categorized for easy recall in the future, the researchers explain. When you jerk your attention from gadget to gadget, though, the information can't be processed quick enough. It's sent to another part of the brain called the striatum, which is responsible for planning movements and motivation rather than storing data.
Not only does this mean the information isn't in your memory when you need to recall it, but researchers also warn that sending data to the striatum too often establishes a pattern, rewiring the brain to store information in the wrong place. This can cause long-term memory issues. Previous research has found that technological multitasking can also reduce the grey matter in your brain, which influences everything from muscle control to self-control, not to mention sensory perception, speech, and emotion.
Don't think you're guilty? The report says more than 80 percent of people who own a cell phone are guilty of checking it when another screen is already in front of their face. So put down your phone, and consider this a justification to fully submerge yourself in that TV marathon. (Or go all out: 7 Simple Steps to Detox Your Life in 48 Hours.)