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Daily Archives: August 24, 2016

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Smartphones Are Making Us Think Less, Google More

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When was the last time you memorized a friend’s new phone number? How about the last time you pulled out your phone to Google a random trivia fact? Chances are you’re doing far more of the latter these days—but that kind of convenience may have a downside. A new study suggests that our brains’ reliance on smartphones may be taking a toll on our thought processes for problem solving, memory recall, and learning.

Researchers call the tendency to use the Internet (and specifically, those always-at-our-fingertips smartphones) as a memory aid “cognitive offloading.” And this habit, they say, is actually changing the way the brain works: While we may think of memory as something that happens inside our heads, it is increasingly happening with the help of outside devices. Whether this is a good or bad thing, they say, is a more difficult question to answer.

The authors of the new report, published in the journal Memory, wanted to see how likely it was that people would reach for a computer or smartphone when quizzed on different topics. So they divided volunteers into two groups—one that was told to use Google and one that was not—and asked them challenging trivia questions about sports, pop culture, and history. Next, they asked much easier questions, giving both groups the option of using the Internet if they wanted.

Even though the second set of questions required less knowledge, the people who had previously used Google were significantly more likely to go back to the search engine for help than those who had previously used only their memories. The Googlers also spent less time consulting their own memories before reaching for the Internet—and nearly a third of them did not even attempt to answer a single simple question from memory.

The results suggest that our habit for cognitive offloading increases after each use, says lead author Benjamin Storm, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “Whereas before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don't bother,” he says. “As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives."

That’s not necessarily all bad, he points out: The Internet is obviously more comprehensive, and in many cases, faster and more dependable, than human memory. It’s helpful to have that wealth of knowledge always available—and to not have to keep every trivial fact or figure in our heads for easy recall. The Internet can also be beneficial, Storm points out, for older adults whose own cognitive capacities have begun to decline.

But the broader implications of this research are ultimately much more nuanced, he adds.

“Certainly there are advantages to becoming reliant on the Internet, especially given the breadth and depth of the information to which it gives us access, but there are also likely to be disadvantages,” he says. “To what extent, for example, does our capacity for wisdom and creative insight depend on the accumulation of internal knowledge?  These are the sorts of questions that will need to be answered.”

Storm wants more research into the ways humans might manage their relationship with the Internet to take advantages of the benefits while minimizing those potential costs. For now, he says, Internet use in “healthy moderation” seems like the best course of action for those who want to keep their recall and problem-solving skills sharp.

And maybe the next time someone asks you a question you’re not sure about, really think on it for a minute or two before whipping your phone out. “There might be something to be said about practicing one’s cognitive and memory abilities outside the context of the Internet,” Storm says.

 

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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Japanese Chicken-Scallion Rice Bowl

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Japanese Chicken-Scallion Rice Bowl Recipe
Japanese Chicken-Scallion Rice Bowl
Here's the quintessence of Japanese home cooking: an aromatic, protein-rich broth served over rice. Admittedly, Japanese cooking leans heavily on sugar – for a less traditional taste, you could reduce or even omit the sugar.

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6 Mistakes You're Making With Your Contacts

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Proper contact lens hygiene is nothing to roll your eyes at: A new government report warns that bad habits (like wearing your lenses to bed) can lead to eye infections and possibly permanent injuries. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined more than 1,000 cases of contact lens-related infections reported to a federal database over the last decade, and found that nearly 1 in 5 of those infections resulted in eye damage—either a decline in vision, a scarred cornea, or the need for a corneal transplant. Yikes.

But the agency also found that by simply using your contacts the way you're supposed to, you can protect your peepers: About 25% of the reported cases involved behaviors known to put a person at greater risk of eye infection.

“Contact lenses are a safe and effective form of vision correction when worn and cared for as recommended,” said Michael Beach, PhD, director of the CDC’s Healthy Water Program, in a press release about the survey. “However, improper wear and care of contact lenses can cause eye infections that sometimes lead to serious, long-term damage.” 

Below, seven mistakes you might be making, and what to do instead.

RELATED: 5 Foods for Healthy Eyes

You sleep in your contacts

The enzymes and antibodies that protect the surface of your eyes require oxygen to fight off germs. When your eyes are closed at night, the air supply is reduced; wear your contacts to bed and there's even less oxygen available. The bottom line: When the PJs come on, the contacts should come out.

You handle your lenses with dirty fingers

To avoid transferring oil, dirt, and bacteria to your eyes (ew), clean your hands before you clean your contacts.

You're not rubbing your contacts

Even if you use a ‘no-rub’ contact solution, it's still a good idea: Give your lenses a rub in your (well-cleaned) palm to remove germs and protein buildup.

You don't change your solution daily

As Reena Garg, MD, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, told Health in a prior interview, "That's like doing your laundry in dirty water." According to the CDC, you should always use fresh multipurpose saline solution (never water!), and don't mix old saline solution with new in your contact case. In fact, you should empty the case after putting in your contacts, rinse it with fresh saline, dry it with a fresh, clean tissue and store it upside down on a clean tissue (with the lids off), until you are ready to use it again.

RELATED: 9 Worst Eye Care Mistakes You're Making

You shower and swim with your contacts in

The CDC advises keeping your lenses away from water (including pool water) to avoid a rare but potentially blinding infection caused by an amoeba called Acanthamoeba, as well as other types of infections. Bacteria and parasites in water can get caught under your lenses. If you're a swimmer, you may want to invest in prescription goggles. 

You leave your lenses in too long

When you're at home and on weekends, give your eyes a break and wear your glasses, says Berkeley, Michigan-based ophthalmologist Steven Shanbom, MD. In a prior interview with Health, he recommended that lens wearers keep their contacts in for no more than 12-14 hours a day.

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