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Raising awareness about the distracted mind (PBS special)

DistractedMindI feel it is crit­i­cal that sci­en­tists make an effort to trans­late their research dis­cov­er­ies into a for­mat that is under­stand­able and mean­ing­ful to the gen­er­al pub­lic. They should also, at least on occa­sion, step beyond detailed descrip­tions of lab­o­ra­to­ry results and spec­u­late on how their find­ings inform the big­ger pic­ture and impact people’s lives. This has nev­er been more impor­tant than it is it right now, in this time of dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduced sci­ence fund­ing. In the PBS-spon­sored spe­cial, The Dis­tract­ed Mind, I try to accom­plish this by inte­grat­ing mate­r­i­al from dozens of pub­lic lec­tures I have giv­en over the years to tell the sto­ry of how inter­fer­ence, both dis­trac­tion and mul­ti­task­ing, impact our minds and our lives.

I begin by shar­ing my per­spec­tive on how fun­da­men­tal lim­i­ta­tions in our brain’s abil­i­ty to process infor­ma­tion result in a con­stant source of inter­fer­ence in us accom­plish­ing our goals. The major­i­ty of evi­dence that I describe is based on research per­formed by my lab over the last decade on how inter­fer­ence degrades our mem­o­ry abil­i­ties.

But, I go beyond this and dis­cuss the provoca­tive pos­si­bil­i­ty that our mod­ern tech­no­log­i­cal world is inten­si­fy­ing inter­fer­ence and this has a broad impact on safe­ty, edu­ca­tion, work and rela­tion­ships. To make the pro­gram even more real world, I leave the lec­ture hall and trav­el to the dis­trac­tion cap­i­tal of the world, Times Square NYC, to take a look around, I talk to school chil­dren about their per­spec­tives and inter­view peo­ple on the street about this top­ic. In addi­tion, I take time to share my own expe­ri­ences and deci­sions, such as how I use nature for restora­tion, and prac­tices I have imple­ment­ed in my dai­ly life to min­i­mize inter­fer­ence effects. The pro­duc­tion of this show has been a reward­ing jour­ney for me, and it is my hope that it offers view­ers insight into the sci­en­tif­ic process, the broad impact that inter­fer­ence has on us, and how we might make informed deci­sions based on data to guide us in lead­ing health­i­er, hap­pi­er and more effec­tive lives.


– Adam Gaz­za­ley, MD PhD, is the Direc­tor of the Neu­ro­science Imag­ing Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cis­co. He is a also fac­ulty mem­ber in the Neu­rol­ogy, Phys­i­ol­ogy and Psy­chi­a­try depart­ments, and prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tor of a cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science lab­o­ra­tory that con­ducts research on the neur­al mech­a­nisms of atten­tion and mem­ory.

The Dis­tract­ed Mind with Dr. Adam Gaz­za­ley

View in iTunes ($9.99)

Descrip­tion: Host­ed by renowned neu­ro­sci­en­tist and M.D., Ph.D., Dr. Adam Gaz­za­ley, THE DISTRACTED MIND delves deeply into atten­tion, dis­trac­tion, the myth of mul­ti-task­ing, and how to use the lat­est research to pos­si­bly improve our skills and abil­i­ties at any point dur­ing our lives. While the brain can seem almost bound­less in its poten­tial, it has lim­i­ta­tions, such as pro­cess­ing speed, atten­tion­al lim­i­ta­tions, work­ing mem­o­ry lim­i­ta­tions, and sen­si­tiv­i­ty to inter­fer­ence, which can be both inter­nal and exter­nal.

Dr. Gaz­za­ley explores the impact that mul­ti-task­ing has on our safe­ty, mem­o­ry, edu­ca­tion, careers and per­son­al lives. Most impor­tant­ly, THE DISTRACTED MIND tells us what we can do to improve our atten­tion­al abil­i­ties and our focus as we age, and as media con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate our land­scape. From chang­ing our behav­iors, to lit­er­al­ly chang­ing our brains, Dr. Gaz­za­ley shares infor­ma­tion you need to sur­vive and thrive in the infor­ma­tion age.

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