Archives for posts with tag: brain

How People Spend Their Time Online

According to, 2012 is the year when we’ll all crave a little solitude. Switching off from life’s littanys, loves and ‘likes’ is just what we’re all secretly craving, they say.

The US average time spent daily online of 62 minutes vs a stolen snippet of morning meditation just doesn’t quite redress the imbalance.

Last year, Swedish telecoms provider Telia launched a free download that enabled customers to disable the internet for a set period of time at home and also set up internet-free zones in several public locations across Sweden.

Why? We’re too contactable. And too addicted.

Internet addiction will be listed in the Psychology Disorder Almanac, DSM V, as a listed psychological problem as of next year. But that means most people I know are sick sick sick.

We’re not at fault for communicating constantly all day, everyday. In fact the genius of the internet and social media is that it’s flattering the one thing humans love doing most; chatting, gossiping, storytelling and beating our own chests. It’s actually highly caveman behaviour. Just with more hashtags. And keys.

But now the internet is having its way with us. From young net addicts performing Fuicide to the  ‘Kony 2012‘ producer losing his marbles from ‘reactive psychosis’ due to net-addiction, our brains are screaming out for more time off. Even a holiday isn’t a holiday anymore unless your phone is switched off too.

So who’s going to lead/jump onto this ‘disconnection’ idea? After all, a break means you’ll have more energy to post with more punch afterwards, right?

So, on the count of three, join me and turn close your computer and go and see the real world.



Still here, right??

Three. You’re hooked.

Read more about it at

My boyfriend and I can sit here for hours… surfing, scrolling, tapping, searching… and suddenly it’s midnight.

I feel completely disorientated, drained, and utterly empty “upstairs”.

Why does my brain literally feel rubbery? Thoughts slide slowly around but not coherently… it’s like someone’s vacuumed my head empty. It’s black, it’s a void. It’s dead space.

This is the feeling of the “internet hole”.

What I would give for a nifty little self-reading EEG at these times. I just desperately want to prove what the I know electric impulses are doing: Nothing.

If you read the reports out of China this month, teenagers who surf the net for 13 hours a day have significantly reduced grey matter.

“Our study reflects the long-term Internet addiction can lead to deterioration in brain structure,” said the researchers.

The brain cortex functions to process memory, emotion, speech, sight and hearing as well as control the movement of people.

This is coupled with the Washington Post reports this month that search engines like Google are effectively changing our brain structures:

“We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found,” says Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow.

This is scary.

I’m logging off right now.

Right after I take this nifty little memory quiz

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF.

The recent appointment of Christine Lagarde as the first female Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund is an exciting moment for women (and men) in the world. Having the brains (and the balls) to save the sinking Euro ship is significant, and it’s clear that a woman of her experience and intellect is well and truly up for the task.

The only question that perhaps remains is… why is she the first woman? ie what took so long? Is it related to this funny notion that men are generally perceived to be better than women at maths and adding up things? And where did this (archaic) notion come from?

Inevitably, a history-making occasion like this raises the question of gender and the brain.

Long-standing studies have indeed shown that males do tend to score higher on tests of mathematical ability and spatial processing (particularly geometric thinking) than females, who score higher than males on test of verbal fluency, perceptual speed and manual dexterity (Casy, Nutall & Pezaris, 1997; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974). In a study of students under age 13 with exceptional mathematical ability, boys outnumbered girls 13 to 1 (Benbow & Stanley).

Interestingly, in the past two decades, with education standards evening out between the sexes, these findings have remained consistent across global studies.

So what’s the deal? Yes there are all the cultural reasons, but anatomically is there a structural difference between the brains that allow for these patterns of mathematical and linguistic tendencies?

The answer is yes. And the secret can be seen in fMRI scans of male and female brains.

Studies at John Hopkins University, U.S., have found that the area called the IPL – Inferior Parietal Lobule  – which is located above your ears, and spans both the right and left hemispheres of your head, is generally responsible for allowing the brain to process senses and be selective in its attention to them.

Across large data samples, the IPL has been found overall to be 5% larger in males than females. This is the part of the brain found to be larger than normal in Albert Einstein among other physicists and mathematicians, indicating that it is related to mathematical ability.

In males it appears larger on the left hemisphere (responsible for calculating time and speed and rotating 3D images) than the right, while in women it is larger on the right hemisphere (responsible for spatial processing, perception of emotions, and the ability to sense relationships between body parts).

And the anatomical differences continue in language.

In 1995, language studies on males using a rhyming task activated the Broca’s area in the left frontal lobe. This showed lateralisation – ie the function was specific to one side or hemisphere of the brain.

However in females, the rhyming task activated BOTH sides of the brain in the frontal areas, showing that for them, language was less lateralised.

Women’s tendency to empathise rather than strategise (male approach) results in greater empathy and mental skills that are the primary reasons why they are better at languages and why they are better judges of character. Also, women naturally dominate primatology, which, like mothering of babies, requires understanding and reading the minds of individuals with whom they cannot communicate by language.

This might definitely help Christine.

We wish her the best of luck for the job ahead; negotiating through tough diplomacy across language and culture barriers, while also balancing sliding budgets and making lasting fiscal decisions must make her grey matter pretty tough stuff.

Thank you to for his research and to Burton, Westen and Kowalski ‘Psychology’, 2009.

The fusiform face area (FFA) is a part of the human visual system which might be specialized for facial recognition, although there is some evidence that it also processes categorical information about other objects, particularly familiar ones.

Good news! That horrible feeling when you cannot, for the life of you, recognise that person enthusiastically greeting you like a long-lost friend, actually has a name – Prosopagnosia – or face-blindness. More than that, it’s a fairly common thing.

Up to 2% of the US population – that’s 6 million people – can’t quite recognise their husbands, children, wives, teachers and colleagues, but this strange impediment isn’t even a household name.

Recognition depends on knowledge; familiarity  is based on feeling, and thus has an entirely different neural base including the amygdala and hippocampi which store memory and emotion.

Prosopagnosia comes in the form of the “hyper-familiar”  – people who greet strangers at the bus stop enthusiastically feeling them know them, while also realising they don’t quite know where they know them from, if they know them at all.

The opposite is type Capgras syndrom, definitely the sadder of the two, where someone recognises a face but has no emotional memory of them – thus the Capgras patient will argue that the person (eg their daughter or son) cannot be the real thing – they must be imposters or counterfeits.

According to case studies, Prosopagnosia seems hereditary.

But with practice, the brain can be trained to remember people’s faces highlighting the plasticity of neural circuits adapting to create new memories… so there is hope for all those yet who can’t remember people’s faces!

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