Our Changing Brains

I was just wondering……

We have become so reliant on technology today that in some ways we may be losing our ability to think.  I myself am guilty of the instant google and I admit I am addicted to obtaining an immediate answer about anything I wonder about. While we are able to obtain information quickly, are we losing something from this immediate indulgence to our love of instant gratification and reliance on a computer brain?

Also, what is the effect of the computer age on childhood play and imagination? My adult son and I had a conversation about this the other day. He still enjoys playing video games, which exasperates me to no end, but he feels that the play of imagination can be learned to some degree through the computer and video games.  Perhaps some element of it, but it is definitely not the same kind of vibrant, spontaneous play that children of my generation enjoyed in our youth.

This leads me to further musings. For instance, what will be the long term effect, from the point of evolution, of our current technology on the structure of our brains?  Of even greater concern is what will be the long range effect of how these technologies are training us to react immediately, at the expense of everything else in our lives, to a simple beep? In one sense we are being conditioned like Pavlovian dogs.  When the phone beeps, we immediately rush to view the message.  I know, because I again plead guilty! Beep, react, beep, react. How will this rewire us and what will happen to the spontaneous sense of play and contemplation that arises out of pure imagination that doesn’t provide an immediate answer?

The new field of neuroplasticity has arisen to begin to look at the ways our brains change, now that we have become aware that they are so malleable.  What we are fast learning is that what we expose ourselves to is what we become. Our brains create new neurons and new pathways to enable these new activities. This idea has tremendous implications for us individually and for our future as a human race.  What kind of person do you want to be?  How do we want ourselves to be as a human race?

The really good news is that we then have a choice, a choice of what and how we want to be.  Once we have made that choice, then all we have to do is to expose ourselves to those ideas.  Kind of reminds you of brainwashing, doesn’t it?  The beauty is that we have control over this!  In brainwashing, someone else has made the decision what to implant as a belief system, but now that we know our brains are plastic, we can decide with careful thought and planning to what we should expose ourselves.  While this sounds like a simple undertaking, it is not as easy as it appears.  We may consciously plan to learn some things, but a lot of learning is going on all the time unconsciously and we are not used to paying attention to everything we do, everything we think.  Mind you, this means we are influenced by the news we watch, the movies we view, what we do for work, the company we keep, and how we spend our spare time, both in action and rumination.

For those of you interested in learning more about neuroplasticity, I would highly recommend the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge.  Meanwhile, let’s all start to become more aware of how we spend our time and to what we expose ourselves. As you review the events of your day will you be able to express satisfaction with the way you have trained your brain today?

Will you be able to include contemplation and thoughtfulness as methods employed to make your decisions?

Or will you spending too much time being trained by your technological appendages?

I was just wondering….

 

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