NY Times reports gadget use may permanently alter your brain

Meet Kord Campbell, a man The New York Times says is so inundated with "two computer screens alive with email, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing" that he missed an email where someone offered to buy his Internet startup for a cool $1.3 million. That's not all. Campbell misses dinner plans and has a hard time keeping his family as a focus over gadgets, and his wife says, "It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment."

"This is your brain on computers," The Times cheekily remarks.

Campbell's tendency toward gadget-heavy multitasking is often considered a positive, but maybe that shouldn't be so, according to new research. The new findings suggest multitaskers have a hard time stepping away from their work, and they suffer from increased levels of stress.

"We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren't necessarily evolved to do," Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Times. "We know already there are consequences."

Right now, it's estimated people consume a whopping 12 hours of media a day, between computers, TV, radio and the like. (Some media overlaps, however: an hour using the computer with the TV on counts as two separate hours.) Apparently, we're all always looking for new information to consume, and we don't always consume it whole. It's more like we nibble at all that fresh data, taking it in in bits that are incomplete.

Still, Steven Yantis, a professor of brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University, implies that there's some hope. "The bottom line is, the brain is wired to adapt," he told the Times. He continues: "There's no question that rewiring goes on all the time."

As a blogger and reporter, I consume that 12 hours of media a day easy, and that's a minimum, but I don't know if I'm any worse for it. I need email and the like to keep my life straight. How about you? Has technology had a detrimental effect on your productivity?

Via The New York Times