Are Electronics Ruining Your Brain?

You've seen them: The multitaskers who hang out in coffee shops simultaneously sipping lattes, checking e-mail, having cell-phone conversations, and bouncing from site to site on their laptops.Or they sit in their offices answering e-mails while writing reports and taking phone calls. Maybe you're even one of them. But is this overload of information even good for people? In other words, are Blackberries-those handheld devices that allow you to access your e-mail, the Internet, games and more-actually turning your brain to mush?

Perhaps, shows a recent study out of Stanford University. After recruiting 100 students and putting them through several memory tests, scientists there claim that folks who have several electronic media going at once around them lose focus and attention, don't remember things as well, and have trouble switching from one task to another compared with people who concentrate on one thing at a time. The proof? The students were shown a string of alphabetical letters and asked to note when a particular letter was repeated. The students who normally did a lot of electronic multitasking found it much more difficult to realize when a letter was being repeated. They also were shown sets of red rectangles either alone or surrounded by a number of blue rectangles. The images were flashed twice, and the students were supposed to let researchers know if the red rectangles had changed position the second time. They were instructed to ignore the blue rectangles. The non-multitaskers completed the task easily, but the multitaskers were constantly distracted by the blue rectangles. The more images they were shown, the worse they did. The third portion of the study had the students look at letters and numbers simultaneously but focus on only either numbers or letters. When focusing on numbers, they had to say whether they were odd or even. When looking at letters, they needed to determine if they were vowels or consonants. The multitaskers were much more distracted than the single focusers and performed poorly.

If you think your brain is on overload, give yourself a break from the Blackberry. Limit yourself to using it at specific times, and keep it off during meals or non-work events. You may feel like you get more done when it's on, but all that connectedness may actually mean you accomplish less.


Source: Stanford University,