Is Technology Making Us....Dumber?

Is Tech Making Us...Dumb?

By Cynthia Kerson, PhD

We asked a brain scientist if our beloved smart technology is making us stupid. Here's what she said...

The brain is never inactive. I was asked to write a piece about that. In fact, the brain is most active when it’s doing nothing – which it’s never doing. See what I mean? The idea that because we are now dependent on technology to recall, remember, communicate, decide, understand and even emote that our brains are now located in our back pockets seems logical but in fact, it’s a bit silly.

 

Two things are happening when we're using technology. One is that the brain now has different tasks to perform. In the past, we relied on the hippocampus - a little brain area that looks like a sea horse, hence its name, to remember a phone number. Now when calling someone, the brain is tasked with how to navigate your contacts. This occurs in your frontal lobes – the place where we do most of our executive functioning.

 

The second thing is that those parts of the brain that were needed in the past are becoming freed up to do other things. Your hippocampus isn’t twiddling its thumbs while finding the contact. It’s remembering the first letter of your buddy’s name. It may also be remembering more details about your last conversation or articulating what you plan to discuss.

So you see, our brains have not become less active. It’s just the opposite. But in case you’re feeling as though your brain needs to get off its bum, here’s a few exercises you can do to keep it buff:

 

  1. Go through the alphabet and name something beginning with each letter in a category. For example: Food – A = artichoke; B = baloney (wait! that’s not food - banana); C = cucumber
  2. Recite the alphabet backwards
  3. Read something in the morning, set your phone alarm to a time in the afternoon and recall the details of what you read.
  4. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku and things like that exercise the left hemisphere – known for literal thinking. Coloring is awesome because it exercises the right hemisphere – known to be more involved in creating processes. I like coloring because I can think about stuff and almost mindlessly color (note that I said ‘almost’). 

To test out some of these brain exercises, we had Jacob, from the Matte Black team challenge himself to reciting animals alphabetically...