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Scientists aren't yet sure if technology is destroying our brains, but they're pretty confident it can trigger some obsessive behaviors that look a lot like addiction, and lead to depression. It's also slowing down our thinking processes. Most tasks are better done off the phone, research suggests.

All day long, most people are inundated by interruptions and alerts from devices. Smartphones buzz to wake us up, emails stream into our inboxes, notifications from coworkers and long distance friends appear on our screens, and "assistants" chime in with their own electronic voices.

People want technology to help with our busy lives, but at what cost?

The human body may have a different view: These constant alerts jolt our stress hormones into action, starting our fight or flight response; our heartbeats quicken, our breathing tightens, our sweat glands burst open, and our muscles contract. Since this is now all day every day, we were simply not built to live like this.

Phone apps are taking advantage of our needs for security and social interaction and researchers are starting to see how terrible this is for us. A full 89% of college students now report feeling "phantom" phone vibrations, imagining their phone is summoning them to attention when it hasn't actually buzzed.

Another 86% of Americans say they check their email and social media accounts "constantly," and that it's really stressing them out. Obsessive smartphone behaviors are all too prevalent if you go anywhere or do anything.

Endocrinologist Robert Lustig tells Business Insider that notifications from our phones are training our brains to be in a near constant state of stress and fear by establishing a stress-fear memory pathway. And such a state means that the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brains that normally deals with some of our highest-order cognitive functioning, goes completely haywire, and basically shuts down.

"You end up doing stupid things," Lustig says. "And those stupid things tend to get you in trouble."

Your brain can only do one thing at a time

Scientists have known for years what people often won't admit to themselves: humans can't really multi-task. This is true for almost all of us: about 97.5% of the population. The other 2.5% have freakish abilities; scientists call them "super taskers," because they can actually successfully do more than one thing at once. That means every time we pause to answer a new notification or get an alert from a different app on our phone, we're being interrupted, and with that interruption we pay a price: something called a "switch cost."

Sometimes the switch from one task to another costs us only a few tenths of a second, but in a day of flip-flopping between ideas, conversations, and transactions on a phone or computer, our switch costs can really add up, and make us more error-prone, too. Psychologist David Meyer who's studied this effect estimates that shifting between tasks can use up as much as 40% of our otherwise productive brain time.

Every time we switch tasks, we're also shooting ourselves up with a dose of the stress hormone cortisol, Lustig says. The switching puts our thoughtful, reasoning prefrontal cortex to sleep, and kicks up dopamine, a brain chemical that plays a key role in pursuing reward and motivation.

In other words, the stress that we build up by trying to do many things at once when we really can't is making us sick, and causing us to crave even more interruptions, spiking dopamine, which perpetuates the cycle.

More phone time, lazier brain

Our brains can only process so information at a time, at a flow of 60 bits per second.

The more tasks we have to do, the more we have to choose how we want to use our precious brain power. So it’s understandable that we might want to pass some of our extra workload to our phones or digital assistants.

But there is some evidence that delegating thinking tasks to our devices could not only be making our brains sicker, but lazier too.

The combination of socializing and using our smartphones could be putting a huge tax on our brains.

Researchers have found smarter, more analytical thinkers are less active on their smartphone search engines than other people. That doesn't mean that using your phone for searching causes you to be "dumber," it could just be that these smarties are searching less because they know more. But the link between less analytical thinking and more smartphone scrolling is there.

We also know that reading up on new information on your phone can be a terrible way to learn. Researchers have shown that people who take in complex information from a book, instead of on a screen, develop deeper comprehension, and engage in more conceptual thinking, too. Often, I am told that I am the only person who ever has a “real” book in their lap…at the hairdresser for instance.

Recent research on dozens of smartphone users in Switzerland also suggests that staring at our screens could be making both our brains and our fingers more jittery.

Last year, psychologists and computer scientists found an unusual and potentially troubling connection: the more tapping, clicking and social media posting and scrolling people do, the "noisier" their brain signals become. That finding took the researchers by surprise. Usually, when we do something more often, we get better, faster and more efficient at the task.

But the researchers think there's something different going on when we engage in social media: the combination of socializing and using our smartphones could be putting a huge tax on our brains.

Social behavior, "may require more resources at the same time," study author Arko Ghosh said, from our brains to our fingers. And that's scary stuff.Driving texting smartphone

Despite these troubling findings, scientists aren't saying that enjoying your favorite apps is automatically destructive. But we do know that certain types of usage seem especially damaging.

“Pathological” usage of the internet has been linked to depression in teens and may even cause the shrinking of the brain. Other research is beginning to demonstrate short term memory loss and changes in brain chemistry.

I have been aware of these effects since smart phone use began. I have never enjoyed being interrupted by pinging and those sounds have been turned off on my phone. I do pay attention and could feel the stress and cortisol when I started using smart phones. I would certainly limit time on smart phones and computers in general as well as social media. After I backed away I decided to learn Spanish and Italian and feel good about the few minutes spent each day learning new words. I guess I just prefer a more meaningful life and I think most people confuse that with a”busier” one.I nfo for this article abridged from business Next week join me to learn how to select a holistic doctor SignUP here. See you then and please don’t forget to visit our natural pharmacy where we offer hundreds of FRESH NEW Professional products at great prices and FREE shipping! We offer brands like: Metagenics, Thorne, Pure Encapsulations, AO Medical, Rx Vitamins, Douglas and much more.

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Author's Bio: 

Dr Taryn DeCicco ND, LAc, LDN of Apple A Day Clinic in Arlington Heights, IL has been practicing Naturopathy, Nutrition, and Acupuncture as a holistic doctor, specializing in acne, skin, digestive disorders, and HPV for over 20 years!