Attention Surfeit Hypoactivity Disorder and mindful Twittering: The paradoxical, Zenlike state of focused distraction

June 4, 2009 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

New York magazine recently published a fantastic piece by Sam Anderson titled, “In Defense of Distraction.”

Anderson plays the role of philosopher, historian, pop social scientist, and futurist as he ruminates about the influence of technology on the wiring of our brains, and on our abilities to engage in meaningful personal relationships. In the article, he imagines the personal computer as the perfect B.F. Skinner box, because of “the variable ratio schedule” of the Internet; shapes the morality debate among scientists about  use of neuroenhancers, and explains why some are worried about “species-typical upper bound limits” of cognition;  outlines the weaknesses of lifehacking; and, ultimately, explains how to “embrace the poverty of attention.” The science of neuroplasticity and meditation are also explored:

The most promising solution to our attention problem [may also be] the most ancient: meditation. Neuroscientists have become obsessed, in recent years, with Buddhists, whose attentional discipline can apparently confer all kinds of benefits even on non-Buddhists. (Some psychologists predict that, in the same way we go out for a jog now, in the future we’ll all do daily 20-to-30-minute “secular attentional workouts.”) Meditation can make your attention less “sticky,” able to notice images flashing by in such quick succession that regular brains would miss them. It has also been shown to elevate your mood, which can then recursively stoke your attention: Research shows that positive emotions cause your visual field to expand. The brains of Buddhist monks asked to meditate on “unconditional loving-kindness and compassion” show instant and remarkable changes: Their left prefrontal cortices (responsible for positive emotions) go into overdrive, they produce gamma waves 30 times more powerful than novice meditators, and their wave activity is coordinated in a way often seen in patients under anesthesia.

Click here to read the article.

play, think…
J.R. Atwood


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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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