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Brain overload causing loss of deep thinking: study

Los Angeles, California, Dec. 16, 2009

Modern humans are so overloaded with information - running into at least 34 gigabytes per day - that they are in danger of losing their ability to feel and think deeply, say the authors of a new research study.
Through email, the internet, television and other media, people are deluged with around 100,000 words a day - equivalent to 23 words per second, researchers claim.

Scientists from the University of San Diego, California, who conducted the research, believe that the information overload may be having a detrimental effect on our brains, the Sunday Times reported.

Roger Bohn, co-author of the study called 'How Much Information?', said: "I think one thing is clear: our attention is being chopped into shorter intervals and that is probably not good for thinking deeper thoughts."

Edward Hallowell, a New York psychiatrist and author specialising in attention deficit disorder, said: "Never before in human history have our brains had to process as much information as they do today."

"We have a generation of people who I call computer suckers because they are spending so much time in front of a computer screen or on their mobile phone or BlackBerry."

"They are so busy processing information from all directions they are losing the tendency to think and to feel," he said.

The study found that our daily word intake is equivalent to 34 gigabytes of information - enough to overload the typical laptop within a week.

It estimates that the total number of words "consumed" in the US alone has more than doubled from 4,500 trillion in 1980 to 10,845 trillion in 2008. The estimates do not include people simply talking to one another.

Total information consumption from televisions, computers and other media was estimated at 3.6 zettabytes (3.6 mn million gigabytes) in 2008.

But Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at the universities of Oxford and Warwick, told the Sunday Times: "One of the things we have learnt over the past 20 years is that the brain does have a capacity to grow and increase in size depending on how it is used."

"Perhaps the personal experience of having to deal with all of this information will cause new nerve cells to be born and create new nerve connections in the brain."