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Mindful : August 2017
out of the corner of our eye (that Twitter app sitting right there on our iPhone screen) takes effort. Using fMRI to measure brain activity, neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of the Uni- versity of California, San Francisco, found that when people try to ignore distractions it requires significant mental resources. Signals from the prefrontal cortex race down to the visual cortex, suppressing neuronal activ- ity and thereby filtering out what the brain’s higher-order cog nitive regions have deemed irrelevant. So far, so good. The problem is that the same prefrontal regions are also required for judgment, atten- tion, problem solving, weighing options, and working memory, all of which are required to accomplish a goal. Our brains have limited capacity to do all that. If the prefrontal cortex is mightily resisting distractions, it isn’t hun- kering down to finish the term paper, monthly progress report, sales projections, or other goal it’s supposed to be working toward. “ We are all cruising along on a superhighway of inter- ference” produced by the ubiquity of digital technology, Gazzaley and Rosen wrote in their 2016 book The Distracted Mind. That impedes our ability to accomplish everyday goals, to say nothing of the grander ones that are built on the smaller ones. The constant competition for our attention from all the goodies on our phone and other screens means that we engage in what a Mic- rosoft scientist called “continuous partial attention.” We just don’t get our minds deeply into any one task or topic. Will that have con- sequences for how intelligent, creative, clever, and thoughtful we are? “It’s too soon to know,” Rosen said, “but there is a big experiment going on, and we are the lab rats.” ● Meanwhile, research sug- gests that relying on GPS weakens our age-old ability to navigate our surround- ings. And to top it all off, the access to novel info popping up on our phone means that, according to Deloitte, people in the US check their phones an average of 46 times per day—which is more than a little disruptive. “I’ll just Google it” may be some of the most damaging words for our brain. Psychol- ogists have theorized that the “Google Effect” causes our memories to weaken due merely to the fact that we know we can look some- thing up, which means we don’t keep pounding away at the neural pathways that strengthen memory. TECH INVASION To Google or Not to Google? DharmaCraf ts THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES Meditation Cushions Inspirational Jewelry DharmaKids Collection since 1979 dharmacrafts.com 866.339.4198 Keycode MFA Request a Catalog Call for Volume Discounts on Cushions Sign Up for Teaching Emails August 2017 mindful 23