Expert says phone use could alter our brain chemistry

posted by Dave DeVille -

Ding.  You try to ignore it, but somebody's texting you. Buzz. Incoming email. Maybe work can wait a minute while you see who it is.

You may not realize it, but your brain might be learning some bad lessons from your smartphone. In fact, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic say the devices may be changing your brain chemistry itself.

According to Clinic psychologist Scott Bea, the devices and their constant notifications put our brains on "high alert" in anticipation of the next one. 

"There’s this phenomenon called 'switch cost' that occurs when there’s an interruption," He explains. "[W]e switch away from the task that we’re on and then we have to come on back.

Dr. Bea adds, "We think it interrupts our efficiency with our brains by about 40 percent."If you've ever felt nervous that you haven't checked that beep or blinking light, that's because your body has squirted you with a shot of the stress hormone cortisol. You feel nervous, your heart rate jumps, and you may feel sweaty -- until you check your phone.Making matters worse, Bea explains, is that our brain feels rewarded each time we check, thanks to a squirt of the "feel good" hormone, dopamine.  And that sets up an addictive feedback loop. 

"Getting off these things is like getting off anything else that has an addictive component -- we’re actually going to feel bad for a little while....we might go through...a little bit of withdrawal."

The more time you spend off your device, however, the more accustomed we become to that new, healthier habit.

Bea also says if work can reach you by phone, it's important to have disconnect time at home, so your brain has a time to get used to actually not being "at work."

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