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Consequences of Being Overly Connected

...and tips on how to maintain balance and brain health

   “I’m very concerned that we are thrilling ourselves to death. All of the non-stop stimulation is very concerning to me,” says Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a physician and psychiatrist who use brain imaging in his practice and clinics. He’s been in four Public Television specials talking about how changing your brain changes your life.
  “Along with it comes a whole host of problems. It looks like non-stop ADHD. We’re setting ourselves up for depressions and addictions. I think gambling and sex addictions are worse because the Internet makes them easily available now,” he says.
  Amen says people are having problems paying attention unless they are stimulated and it’s wearing out the pleasure centers in the brain. It’s ADHD induced by technology.
  “I think it’s a different type of ADHD than I was seeing in my child psychiatry practice 20 years ago. When the Atari system first came in my 11-year-old went from a good student in 6th grade to a crummy one in 7th. Now these things are attached like appendages,” he says. Younger people’s brains have not evolved to this level of stimulation. It will change our genes and how the brain is wired,” he says.
   It’s not just a teen-age problem. “Just talk to any middle-aged couple—‘he doesn’t pay attention to me anymore’ is a common complaint.
  “We have become the power of now. We want the immediate fix rather than what’s good for us 10 years from now, individually and as a country,” he says.

How to take care of your brain
   Dr. Amen offered some tips on how to maintain balance and brain health in the age of technology:

• Turn off cell phones and computers one hour before bedtime.
• Learn to not always be connected or online.
• Exercise to increase blood flow to the brain and boost your learning power.
• Avoid excessive stimulants like nicotine and coffee.
Eat a balanced diet.
• Multiple vitamins, fish oil and vitamin D are critical to healthy brain function.
• Keep learning. Mental exercise helps to keep neurons young. The more you use your brain the more you can use it.

Published: August 08, 2010
Issue: Fall 2010 Issue