Our love affair with gadgets is robbing our minds of the critical downtime they need to properly process our experiences, scientists tell the New York Times. Experiments show that when rats learn a new skill, such as running a maze, their brains actually process the experience only when they take a break afterward. Researchers suspect humans learn the same way, and that constant media stimulation is eliminating many of those mind-clearing rests.
Consuming media, they explain, isn’t as relaxing as it feels. “People think they’re refreshing themselves, but they’re fatiguing themselves,” says one neuroscientist. Media companies, the scientists note, are striving to fill ever-shorter bursts of free time; the average mobile phone game is played for 6.3 minutes, for example. Business people, meanwhile, are constantly checking their BlackBerries. “It’s become a demand,” says one addict. “Not necessarily a demand of the customer, but a demand of my head. … I’m more tired since I got this thing.”