Feeds

Computers are 'electronic cocaine' that make you MANIC

Curse you, reptile brain stem!

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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." ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.