For many people, every minute of time away from work and daily routine such as being stuck in line at the checkout stand, waiting for the bus, or just simply working out in the gym is a time to pull out the iPod, cell phone, or other digital device and start checking on e-mail, text messages, or just simply play a quick game of tetris.
Recent advances in technology for such devices have turned smartphones in to full-fledged computers with high-speed internet connections which have made “the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive”.
However, scientists point out that an unintended side-effect of all this digital input is that people are now unable to process information that could help them to remember information or formulate new ideas.
From the aritle: “At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.
The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn.”
“Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”
More from the New York Times: Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime