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Study points to growing cognitive gap between high-volume TV watchers and infrequent watchers

watching tv adultToo Much TV And Chill Could Reduce Brain Power Over Time (NPR):

“Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco checked in with 3,247 people for 25 years, starting when they were young adults…People who got little exercise or watched at least three hours of TV a day did worse Read the rest of this entry »

Distracted in the Workplace? Meet Maggie Jackson’s Book

Today we’ll discuss some of the cognitive implications of “always on” workplaces and lifestyles via a fascinating interview with Maggie Jackson, an award-winning author and journalist. Her latest book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, describes Distracted by Maggie Jacksonthe implications of our busy work and life environments and offers important reflections to help us thrive in them.

This is a 2-part interview conducted via e-mail: we will publish the continuation on Thursday March 12th.

Alvaro Fernandez: New York Times columnist David Brooks said last year that we live in a Cognitive Age, and encouraged readers to be aware of this change and try and adapt to the new reality. Can you explain the cognitive demands of today’s workplaces that weren’t there 30-40 years ago?

Maggie Jackson: Our workplaces have changed enormously in recent decades, and it’s easy to point to the Blackberry or the laptop as the sources of our culture of speed and overload and distraction. But it’s important to note first that our 24/7, fragmented work culture has deeper roots. With the first high-tech inventions, such as the cinema, phonograph, telegraph, rail, and car, came radical changes in human experience of time and space. Distance was shattered  long before email and red-eye flights. Telegraph operators  not online daters  experienced the first virtual love affairs, as evidenced by the 1890s novel Wired Love. Now, we wrestle with the effects of changes seeded long ago.

Today, the cognitive and physical demands on workers are steep. Consider 24/7 living. At great cost to our health, we operate in a sleepless, hurried world, ignoring cues of sun and season, the Industrial Age inventions of the weekend and vacation, and the rhythms of biology. We try to break the fetters of time and live like perpetual motion machines. That’s one reason why we feel overloaded and stressed conditions that are corrosive to problem-solving and clear thinking.

At the same time, our technologies allow us access to millions of information bites producing an abundance of data that is both wondrous and dangerous. Unless we have the will, discipline and frameworks for turning this information into wisdom, we remain stuck on the surface of Read the rest of this entry »

Memory Problems? Perhaps you are Multi-tasking

Today’s kids are into multi-tasking. This is the generation hooked on iPods, IM’ing, video games – not to mention TV! Many people in my generation think it is wonderful that kids can do all these things simultaneously and are impressed with their competence.

Well, as a teacher of such kids when they reach college, I am not impressed. College students these days have short attention spans and have trouble concentrating. They got this way in secondary school. I see this in the middle-school outreach program I help run. At this age kids are really wrapped up in multi-tasking at the expense of focus.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study last year, school kids in all grades beyond the second grade committed, on average, more than six hours per day to TV or videos, music, video games, and computers. Almost one-third reported that “most of the time” they did their homework while chatting on the phone, surfing the Web, sending instant messages, watching TV, or listening to music.

Kids think that this entertainment while studying helps their learning. It probably does make learning less tedious, but it clearly makes learning less efficient and less effective. Multi-tasking violates everything we know about how memory works. Now we have objective scientific evidence that Read the rest of this entry »

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