Feeds

Computers are 'electronic cocaine' that make you MANIC

Curse you, reptile brain stem!

Boost IT visibility and business value

Some human brains just can't handle the constant stimulation produced by computers and the internet thanks to our evolutionary history, a respected psychologist has warned.

"The computer is electronic cocaine for many people," Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of the Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), told Pacific Standard. "Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. With technology, novelty is the reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty."

Whybrow, a former scientist with the British Medical Research Council and a specialist in human brain chemistry, postulates that computers activate dopamine producers in the older parts of our brains, the medulla and cerebellum. These can start dopamine production to flood our brains with pleasure when we find something new and interesting, and computers can cause a constant state of production.

"Despite our superior intelligence, we remain driven by our ancient desires," he said.

At the same time, the brain is being exposed to much greater stresses than ever before. Constant reminders about meetings, deadlines, or other stresses trigger adrenaline production to deal with "fight or flight" situations. This works well for occasional occurrences such as running from or fighting a predator, but is calamitous to bodily health if stress is constant.

"Many of the usual constraints that prevented people from doing things 24 hours a day – like distance and darkness – were falling away," Whybrow said. "When the stress response is continuously in play it causes us to become aggressive, hypervigilant, overreactive." As a result many computer users now exhibit behavior that resembles clinical mania, he said, including excitement over acquiring new things, high productivity, and fast speech, followed by sleep loss, irritability, and depression.

This is reflected in the astonishing US consumption of anti-depressants, as users seek to self-medicate, he argues. Over one in ten Americans over the age of 12 take clinical anti-depressants, with more than 60 per cent of those taking the pills for more than two years. A quick trip around any US bar also shows people self-medicating in less clinical ways.

The answer, Dr. Whybrow suggests, is to intentionally de-stress the brain by shutting out non-essential activities for a period. He checks his email just once a day on weekends, for example, and never works at home.

"The idea is not that you don't work hard," he explained. "You do. But you have to be able to switch it off and create space. I've made a conscious decision to live a life that is not driven by someone else's priority." ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?