Watching TV at the gym / Five Neuroscientists rafting in Utah

There are a lot of ideas to be extrapolated out of an examination of how technology places itself in lives. The New York Times has an ongoing series under the nomenclature “Your Brain On Computers”. As the title suggest, the articles are investigations into the cognitive effects of technology on it’s users, examining modes of behavior and thought processing in relation to devices (or the lack thereof) present in the participants everyday lives.

The two articles I found of interest both mention a recently conducted study by the University of Michigan concluding that people are better able to process and learn new information after a walk in the woods rather than one in a city. That is to say, too much physical/visual information hinders the abilities of the brain.

The first article references the infiltration of technology into the social sphere, using the gym as a symbol for a recreational complex rife with distractions. The author makes an interesting mention of creativity and how too much information can actually hinder our capacity to think clearly.  The second article follows an outdoor excursion of five practicing neuroscientists in the wilds of Utah, cut-off from their usually constant stream of technologically aided stimulus and their preferred tools for information delivery. A level of irony exists, to be sure, that even when these men are stripped of their mobile devices, they still manage to spend a good deal of time discussing them in their absence:

[Image: Jim Wilson/The New York Times]

.“Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime”

The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

.“Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain”
It was a primitive trip with a sophisticated goal: to understand how heavy use of digital devices and other technology changes how we think and behave, and how a retreat into nature might reverse those effects.

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