The cognitive drain of switching tasks—"multitasking"—is more harmful to your brain than smoking marijuana, which studies have shown impedes concentration and memory formation.

Leading neuroscientists from across the globe recognize the negative consequences of living modern life on the terms of our mobile devices, which demand we immediately attend to every small event, giving us a small sense of satisfaction in return. 

The good feeling we have each time we check for status updates on Facebook or reply to a text message is caused by a release of dopamine in the brain. The same chemical is released when a drug addict gets his fix or when an orgasm occurs.

When we switch tasks often, our cognition stays more surface-level.

In studies, lab rats ignored food and rest when given the ability to trigger dopamine release by pushing down on a special lever, dying of starvation and exhaustion as a result.

Solving the complex problems that arise at work and in our personal lives require a certain depth of concentration, say scientists, and it takes our brains time to reach that depth. When we switch tasks often, our cognition stays more surface-level.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman says technology can enflame our emotions in destructive ways:

In addition, switching tasks requires addressing a new set of questions—Do I answer this email now or ignore it? How should I respond? Should I take a break first?—and neurologists say answering questions, whether they are large or small, requires substantial cognitive energy.

Thanks to our mobile devices, we are responsible for doing the work of several professionals at once, i.e. booking flights, managing finances, typing correspondence, and doing shopping. And not only do these demands take us away from more important tasks, they take us away from human relationships.

Read more at the Guardian

Image courtesy of Shutterstock