Our Digital Device Addiction Is Causing A 'National Attention Deficit'

10/03/2014 01:40pm ET | Updated October 7, 2014
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 01: Arianna Huffington (L) and Richard Davidson speak onstage at Thrive with Arianna Huffington panel during AWXI on October 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for AWXI)

Distraction, busyness, constant connectivity and information overload have become largely accepted as facts of daily life in the Internet age. But all this stimulation could be having a damaging effect on the brain.

At the Thrive CEO Summit at AdWeek on Wednesday, leading neuroscientist Richard Davidson told host Arianna Huffington that the way we live today has led to a "national attention deficit."

"I think if we're all honest about it, we all suffer from attention deficit disorder, and it's in part attributable to the kind of exposure we have to digital devices," Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Huffington, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. "The kind of feedback that we get from them is immediate feedback and it's highly reinforcing, so it becomes like a drug. And in fact, it co-opts the same brain systems that are indicated in addiction."

This underscores the immense need for antidotes, like mindfulness and stress-relieving practices. But we don't need to eliminate technology to improve our relationship with it, according to Davidson. We can actually turn to digital tools, like social media-blocking plug-ins and meditation apps, to help us use technology more mindfully.

"A combination of the ancient wisdom using simple meditation practices, along with using digital devices to help us and remind us [to unplug], can be a very effective combination," said Davidson.