The New ‘Grand Theft Auto’ Lets You Have Realistic Sex With Prostitutes

The new release of Grand Theft Auto V is out today, bringing the game to the next generation of consoles. Now running on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, players can enjoy the game in first-person mode, making it seem as if they’re really inside the game.

But eyebrows are already being raised over one part of the new game: First-person sex with prostitutes.

Needless to say, this will be controversial, and the company has likely deliberately created this aspect of the game in part because it knows it will generate headlines.

Prostitutes have controversially existed in Grand Theft Auto games for years, but in the past, players have had their view of sex acts obscured by car doors. Now, it all takes place in full view of the player, who can move the camera around to get a better view.  Players drive past prostitutes, honking their horn to encourage them to enter their vehicle. Then, after driving to a secluded spot, they select from a menu of sex acts before watching what happens. Of course, this being a video game, some players choose to kill the prostitute after the encounter to get back some of their money.

The Grand Theft Auto series was engulfed in controversy in 2005 when it was discovered that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had a feature hidden on the disc that allowed players to play a sex minigame named “Hot Coffee” that saw the main character have sex with women. Although Rockstar Games had disabled the feature, essentially removing it from the game, players figured out that it took just a simple modification to add it back in. The game was pulled from some retailers, and later re-released as an adult game with a new age rating.

When Grand Theft Auto V was first released in 2013, players were amused to find that they could listen in to other people talking to the game’s virtual strippers. The women have a virtual “Like” bar that could be increased by touching them or using a real-world microphone to speak to them. However, players didn’t realize that everything they said to strippers was broadcast to nearby players, resulting in some embarrassment.

A 2013 Guardian comment article argued that the Grand Theft Auto series demeans women by reducing them to unplayable characters. It’s important to note, however, that the most recent game allows you to play as a woman in its online mode.

Note from Our Clinical Director, Tracy Markle, MA, LPC;

It is important for parents to review all video games on websites such as, (entertainment software rating board) in order to understand whether the game is age appropriate for the young person. ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ is rated “M” for mature (17 and older), which means your child must be 17 or older to purchase this game, or a parent must do so. As parents it is important to decide what you are ready for your child to be exposed to during their developmental years, such as gore, violence, sexual content/violence, etc. Base your decision on factors such as, their age, level of maturity, their ability to connect socially with others in a healthy way, and mental health.



When:  Every Thursday from 6-7 pm (Important: ITAA is meeting on Tues, Dec 23rd as there is no meeting on Dec 25th)
Location: 2299 Pearl St, Ste 310, Boulder, CO 80302
For more information go to;

This 12-step group is for those who’s life has been negatively impacted by their compulsive use of the Internet, Video Games, and Technology.

ITAA is a fellowship of men and women of all ages who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from Internet and technology addiction.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop the excessive use of technology and the Internet.

There are no dues or fees for ITAA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions.

Our primary purpose is to find balance and help other Internet and technology users achieve a balanced lifestyle.

As ITAA 12-step meetings are newly forming around the country a “special service worker” has been chosen to facilitate each meeting. This person is in recovery, is a mental health professional, understands technology addiction, and will create a consistent and safe environment for all to feel welcome and supported.  Call ITAA Central office for further information @ 720-328-5305

If you have questions or desire further information about this group, or would like to discuss starting an ITAA group in your area, please call the ITAA/Boulder County central office at 720-328-5305
ITAA Boulder County Central Office
2299 Pearl St, Suite 309
Boulder, CO 80302

Start the Conversation, Banish the Stigma

Most young adults go off to college with a textbook full of health information stuffed into their skulls. They get the lecture about sex, including birth control and protection against disease. (It only takes once, people!) They hopefully know the symptoms of both alcohol poisoning and bacterial meningitis, and are aware of possible fungal transmission when showering sans water shoes. (It only takes once, people!)

In the context of this wealth of information, the lack of similar conversation about mental-health issues — which students are far more likely to face than meningitis — can be downright troubling.

“So many people, parents in particular, don’t think of starting that conversation. They’re hoping their young adult will go off to college and be OK,” says Tracy Markle, clinical director of Collegiate Coaching Services. “So when everything’s not OK, we find stigma alone is one of our biggest challenges in getting young adults the help they need.”

At CAPS — the acronym for CU’s Counseling and Psychological Services — Dr. Dorothy Moon often meets students reluctant to ask for mental-health help, or who are ignorant of available mental-health resources.

“Sometimes they won’t go for help, they won’t talk about it and they’ll suffer in silence,” says Moon. “Common excuses we hear are ‘I’m the only one going through this problem or mental-health issue’ and ‘No one will understand me if I share’ or ‘I don’t need help and can deal with this all on my own.'”

The result of such attitudes can be an untreated health concern that’s just as serious as when a minor infection is ignored despite readily available care. Ignorance about available treatment, Moon says, is why CAPS does outreach work to make sure students know they do not have to deal with mental-health issues on their own, and that there are a plethora of resources they can lean on —no stigma attached.

“‘My problem is not big enough.’ I’ve heard that one, too, but we will not turn you away,” she says.

Like any other medical care, she adds, “It’s important to seek help early.”

Warning signs

The most common reasons young adults seek mental-health services include anxiety, depression, relationship problems and addiction, and such issues are often not mental illnesses. But young adults should ask for help when any mental-health concern is affecting their quality of life — or seems to be affecting the life of a friend or loved one.

In terms of possible warning signs in yourselves or others, “The biggies are isolation, when somebody starts dropping out of contact, not returning phone calls,” says Markle, who notes that lack of communication or troubling communication can also be seen on social media, like Twitter or Facebook.

“Or maybe they’re staying in bed, not going to class, coming home late, being under the influence on a regular basis, or their hygiene isn’t good,” she says. “Maybe you’re not seeing them eat, or they’re not going to the cafeteria with you anymore.”

Whether you feel yourself falling into these behaviors or worry about such signs in others, CAPS should be your first stop or first recommendation. Even if its counseling and group work are not the best fit for a specific mental-health concern, they’re the epicenter of all available help, able to connect students with other resources both on and off campus.

First and foremost, though, bring up the subject. Talk about mental health. Don’t be afraid to speak about how you’re feeling or to ask others about themselves, in both cases with kindness and without judgement. The more frank, caring conversations we have about mental health, the more we decrease negative stigma.

“Walk the talk. The more you’re open, the more a friend or family member will be open with you,” says Moon. “I think any transition or major change like going off to college will really test you, but it’s a great learning opportunity and growth opportunity.”

So, ask for help and be of help. During a possibly dark and dangerous time for someone, a simple and kind intervention to show you care could drastically change or even save a life.

Save a life

If you’re worried someone you care about is considering suicide, encourage them to talk about their feelings but do not feel obligated to keep promises of confidentiality, says Moon. Responsibility for another person’s life is too much for one person to take on, which is why suicide-prevention resources exist. She offered these tips as well:

•If a person is not in immediate danger, turn to CAPS or a trusted adult like an RA, parent or doctor. If a person feels comfortable confiding in you about suicidal feelings, they usually are asking for help to not kill themselves. Connect them with that help to the best of your ability.

•Ask the person you’re worried about if they have a plan, and if so, if they have the means to follow through with the plan on hand (such as pills or other drugs) or a time scheduled. In this case, call 911 or the CU police. If possible, confiscate the pills or other means to give to authorities.

•While waiting for help, do not leave the person physically alone. Also, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 and allow their operators to soothe or distract the person until help arrives.

•Lastly, as someone who has gone through a traumatic experience, don’t be afraid to seek help for yourself afterward.


How Staring At A Screen Changes Your Brain (For The Worse)

The typical US citizen spends a staggering 50 plus hours consuming media from a screen per week. Recent statistics show that the average U.S. adult spends around two hours and 20 minutes per day online, about the same amount of time on mobile devices, and another four hours and 31 minutes watching TV.

Ever wonder what all this screen time is doing to your brain?

According to Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, the news isn’t good. For a human to focus their vision on the area right in front of their nose for so many hours a day drives negative changes in the brain.

Because the survival of our species was dependent on seeing and responding to unpredictable events in our surroundings all around us, our brains are programmed to see ear-to-ear. Information coming from the eyes gets interpreted and turned into action primarily in the brain’s frontal lobes, which take the biggest hit from this perpetual habit.

Visual activities, like staring at a screen or even driving, continually narrow our field of view to a smaller box-like zone right in front of our eyes. Our brains learn to categorize everything outside of this box as a distraction not worthy of attention and get good at filtering out anything not right in front of us. By developing sustained attention in the central view, our peripheral vision suffers, and our view of the world slowly contracts.

The field of view in humans decreases as we age. Over time, a person becomes immune to noticing life’s visual surprises, and their eyes move less often.

As a result of these self-induced neurological changes, our brains and bodies get conditioned not to pay attention and not to react to the unexpected. Your brain learns to label most everything as uninteresting and unimportant, which makes for a flat, dull existence. Our brains and lives are invigorated and nourished by paying attention and being mindful.

You can imagine the negative impact this narrowing field of vision has on driving and navigating through the world, but there’s more. By living in a smaller visual box, we are teaching our brains to dim the very spark of life and brightness of our spirits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Limit entertainment based screen time to under 2 hours for persons over age 2.
  • Avoid all electronic entertainment for children under age 2.
  • Establish “screen-free” zones and times, for example in bedrooms and during dinner.

For adults who have to work at a computer all day or are tied to a smart phone where minimizing screen time is not really an option, taking regular breaks following the “rule of 20s” can be helpful. Every 20 minutes, walk 20 feet for at least 20 seconds, and look 20 feet away. They can use the time to interact with someone, make a phone call, or in some way engage with their environment.

Performing eye exercises, such as alternating focusing on objects near and far, rolling closed eyes clockwise and counterclockwise, and intentional frequent blinking will also reduce eye strain.

Temple Grandin School’s 3rd Annual TGS Shuffle – September 20th

Collegiate Coaching Services is proud to be a sponsor of the TGS Shuffle. We value the opportunity for social connections and fun, as well as bringing awareness to the mission of the Temple Grandin School and the specialized work they are doing with middle school and high school students who are on the Autism spectrum and similar learning profiles.

Shuffle 2014 Flyer Aug

For more information and to register visit:

The TGS Shuffle is a 5k Run/Walk at scenic Waneka Lake Park in Lafayette, CO. Your registration and other funds raised by this even help support their Specialized Curriculum, Positive Behavior Support Program, and Innovative Plus One Program.

September 20th, 2014

8:30 am Packet pick-up

9:00 am Run/Walk start

10:15 am Post Race Raffle Drawing and Snacks



Collegiate Coaching Services Executive Functioning (EF) Coaching

“The single greatest predictor of academic success is executive function. It even trumps IQ.”

Developmental molecular biologist John Medina

Executive Functioning refers to brain-based abilities that allow us to harness our energy and focus on goals—in short, EF allow us to manage ourselves and get things done.

Executive functioning allows people to access information, think about solutions and implement those ideas. There is an impressive list of areas that executive functioning has an impact on and most people do these things without thinking about them. The list includes:

  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Prioritizing
  • Problem solving
  • Estimating outcomes
  • Analyzing sensory information
  • Anticipating consequences
  • Evaluating possible outcomes
  • Choosing actions based on positive outcomes
  • Choosing based on social expectations and norms
  • Performing tasks required to carry out decisions
  • Planning and completing projects
  • Struggling with telling stories in the right sequence
  • Retaining information in distracting situations
  • Initiating tasks and generating ideas independentl


Who struggles with Executive Function?

A wide variety of people struggle with executive function. Some people who struggle with executive function have no diagnosable disorders. Others who struggle in this area have ADHD, Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD-NOS), learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Often, people who struggle with mood disorders can have cyclical problems with executive function.

What is an Executive Functioning Coach?

       In collaboration with the young adult, effective ways to personalize your education and get you on track academically are developed and implemented.

       Together, you will put into action learning and life management strategies, enhancing your success in your college environment.

      Your accountability person, someone who provides no judgment, is empathetic, warm, and fun, yet won’t let you stray too far away from your goals and objectives.

       Remember, CCS Coaches are not academic advisors. Conversations with your advisors will focus on planning curriculum and meeting requirements whereas dialogue with an EF Coach allows space for everything in between, like learning strategies and life management skills. However, your coach will accompany you to your important academic meetings if this is helpful.

Coaching Benefits

It’s a chance for the client to talk about their experience in college, in and out of the classroom.

– Our clients are listened to, not judged, and taken seriously.

In addition to educating and assisting with design strategies tailored to the client’s specific situation, the Coach keeps abreast of specific school’s

  policies and might be aware of options not previously considered.

Our coaches support the client to develop a study schedule and routine, and provide accountability to the client to support their follow through.

Clients have the option of participating in CCS supported activities and groups to increase their social connection and support.


Areas the coach will work with your son or daughter on:

    • Client is in need of the support of a coach who understands when they are feeling a lack of confidence about their academic performance.
    • Help the client understand their limitations, what can be done to improve them and accommodate them to support success in the academic arena, as well as with life management.
    • Strengths are assessed and highlighted and an academic and life management plan is built around the clients strengths, and continuing what works.
    • Improve motivation and feelings of empowerment, which occurs because of our strength-based approach.
    • Have questions about any kind of academic policy and support the client in finding the answers.
    • Are considering changes in their schedule or major.
    • Feel undue academic pressure and are struggling to cope and find solutions.
    • Guide and accompany client to important departments on campus, such as disability services, tutoring center, academic services, counseling services, etc.
    • We support our clients to apply for and receive academic accommodations through the disability services. We walk with them every step of the way.
    • Want to sharpen learning or life management skills, including:
      • Time Management, which includes daily planners and “to do” lists, weekly schedule, semester calendar, managing each syllabus effectively, and realities, boundaries, priorities, and rewards.
      • Managing Freedom, especially for first year students
      • Goal Setting
      • Establishing a Study Plan
      • Motivation
      • Focus and Concentration
      • Test Preparation and Test Taking Strategies


 Call 303-635-6753 for further information.


Students’ Frequent Cell Phone Use Tied to Lower Grades, Higher Anxiety

By Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 7, 2013

Students' Frequent Cell Phone Use Tied to Lower Grades, Higher AnxietyS

A new study has found that college students who use their cell phones frequently had lower grades, higher anxiety and were less happy than other students.

For their study, Kent State University researchers Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., and Aryn Karpinski, Ph.D., all faculty members in the university’s College of Education, Health and Human Services, surveyed more than 500 university students. Daily cell phone use was recorded, along with a clinical measure of anxiety and each student’s level of satisfaction with their own life — in other words, happiness. Finally, the students allowed the researchers to access their official university records to retrieve their college grade point average (GPA).  All those surveyed were undergraduate students and were equally distributed by class (freshman, sophomore, junior and senior). In addition, 82 different majors were represented, the researchers noted.

An analysis of the data collected revealed that cell phone use was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety, according to the researchers. They found that students who used their cell phones frequently tended to have a lower GPA, higher anxiety and lower satisfaction with life (i.e., happiness) relative to students who used their cell phones less often.

Earlier this year, a team led by Lepp and Barkley also identified a negative relationship between cell phone use and cardiorespiratory fitness. Taken as a whole, these results suggest that students should be encouraged to monitor their cell phone use and reflect upon it critically so that it is not detrimental to their academic performance, mental and physical health, and overall well-being or happiness, the researchers concluded.

The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.




Video game addiction and other Internet compulsive disorders mask depression, anxiety, learning disabilities

Addiction to video games and the Internet is gaining legitimacy as a psychological disorder, and experts say it’s not uncommon for kids to become violent when their ‘drug’ is taken away

Video game addiction will be acknowledged for the first time in the updated edition of the American Psychological Association diagnostic manual, DSM-5, out in May.

Violent video games can be as addicting as drugs, experts say.

“It affects the same pleasure centers in the brain that make people want to come back,” said Dr. Michael Fraser, a clinical psychologist on the upper East Side and professor at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“If you look at alcoholism and Internet addiction, it’s the exact same pattern of behavior,” agreed Dr. Kimberly Young, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Online and Internet Addiction in Bradford, Penn.

Kids are among the most vulnerable to video game addiction, experts said, and may become violent when their “drug” is taken away.


“Kids can become physically and verbally abusive,” said Fraser. “Most parents have trouble imagining this—that their 12-year-old boy would push his mother when she tries to unplug the game.”

Games like 'Call of Duty' are open-ended, unlike arcade games of yore, which may make them even more addictive.

Games like ‘Call of Duty’ are open-ended, unlike arcade games of yore, which may make them even more addictive.

Young agreed, based on her 19 years of researching Internet-based addictions.

“There definitely seems to be a correlation between violent game use and aggressive behavior,” Young said. “[Kids] will throw things, they’ll hit their parents, they’ll start becoming violent at school. Parents say, ‘he was a good boy; he didn’t act like this before.’

“The reality is, these games must teach you something,” she continued. “When you’re actively participating, looking at various weapons, getting reinforcement and recognition for your achievements from the game and from other players…I think it desensitizes you.”

Video game and Internet addiction usually point to other mental problems including anxiety, depression and trouble forming healthy relationships, said Fraser. His patients—mostly boys in middle, high school and early college—use games as means of escape, whether from social anxiety or from a learning disability that makes concentrating on schoolwork difficult.

“When it comes time to bear down and concentrate, rather than work through that frustration they escape into gaming, like a drug,” Fraser said.

Dr. Kimberly Young, director of the Center for Online Addiction and a researcher of Internet-based addictions, says there 'definitely seems to be a correllation' between violent video game use and aggressive behavior in kids. 'The reality is, these games must teach you something,' she said.

Dr. Kimberly Young, director of the Center for Online Addiction and a researcher of Internet-based addictions, says there ‘definitely seems to be a correlation’ between violent video game use and aggressive behavior in kids. ‘The reality is, these games must teach you something,’ she said.

Modern day video games may be even more addictive, he added, because they are open-ended and allow players to save their place and pick back up again, unlike the older generations of games like Pac-Man, where players lose their allotted lives and are forced to start over.

As with other addictions, some people may be more susceptible than others.


“In other words we wouldn’t want anybody to think, when we use the term ‘video game addiction’ or ‘compulsive gaming’ that the problem lies in the video games, any more than the problem for an alcoholic lies in a can of beer,” Fraser said. “Many people can have one can of beer, and that’s it. But others may have a biological predisposition towards addictive behavior in general.”

Cases such as Newtown shooter Adam Lanza—who kept a videogame-style score sheet of past murders—may be rare, but Fraser and Young agreed that parents need to actively set usage and access boundaries.

“Monitoring is very important,” Fraser said. “If you put an iPad in a 6-year-old’s hands, that’s no different than sending them into an R-rated movie theater unsupervised.”

Dr. Michael Fraser, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan who specializes in treating video game addiction, says troubled kids often use games as a means of escape from depression and anxiety.

michaelfraserphd/via YouTube

Dr. Michael Fraser, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan who specializes in treating video game addiction, says troubled kids often use games as a means of escape from depression and anxiety.

“When you see a heavy drinker going into a bar, you know what they’re going in there for,” he also said. “But when a kid goes into the library or their room and sits at a laptop, it’s not always apparent that they’re going to do something detrimental.”

There’s no formal diagnosis for video game addiction—but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Starting this year, a variety of Internet-related psychological conditions – from compulsive gaming to online gambling – will take a major step towards legitimacy when they are mentioned for the first time in DSM-5,  the updated manual of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association, under the heading “Internet use gaming disorder.”

That could pave the way for more research funding and health insurance coverage—as well as a greater understanding of how these disorders operate and how they can be treated.


– Secrecy or lying about use

– Spending more than 24-30 hours a week online not for work or school

– Mood shifts, such as increased irritability, if access is taken away

– A significant decrease in other activities and interests

– Neglecting friends, family and other responsibilities

– Sleep problems

– Deterioration of personal hygiene

It’s normal for kids (and adults) to be a little obsessed with a new game or gadget in the weeks after they first get it, Fraser says. But if the following signs of problematic Internet or gaming use persist for longer than 3-6 months, it may be worth seeking psychological help.

Kids struggling with other mental and emotional issues may seek escape in video games, which can turn unhealthy, Fraser said. Pictured: the first-person shooter game 'Gears of War: Judgment.' 

Kids struggling with other mental and emotional issues may seek escape in video games, which can turn unhealthy, Fraser said. Pictured: the first-person shooter game ‘Gears of War: Judgment.’


Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime

Every now and then during the workweek—usually around three in the afternoon—a familiar ache begins to saturate my forehead and pool in my temples. The glare of my computer screen appears to suddenly intensify. My eyes trace the contour of the same sentence two or three times, yet I fail to extract its meaning. Even if I began the day undaunted, getting through my ever growing list of stories to write and edit, e-mails to send and respond to, and documents to read now seems as futile as scaling a mountain that continuously thrusts new stone skyward. There is so much more to do—so much work I genuinely enjoy—but my brain is telling me to stop. It’s full. It needs some downtime.

Freelance writer and meditation teacher Michael Taft has experienced his own version of cerebral congestion. “In a normal working day in modern America, there’s a sense of so much coming at you at once, so much to process that you just can’t deal with it all,” Taft says. In 2011, while finalizing plans to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco, he decided to take an especially long recess from work and the usual frenzy of life. After selling his home and packing all his belongings in storage, he traveled to the small rural community of Barre, Mass., about 100 kilometers west of Boston, where every year people congregate for a three-month-long “meditation marathon.”

Taft had been on similar retreats before, but never one this long. For 92 days he lived at Insight Meditation Society’s Forest Refuge facility, never speaking a word to anyone else. He spent most of his time meditating, practicing yoga and walking through fields and along trails in surrounding farmland and woods, where he encountered rafters of turkeys leaping from branches, and once spotted an otter gamboling in a swamp. Gradually, his mind seemed to sort through a backlog of unprocessed data and to empty itself of accumulated concerns. “When you go on a long retreat like that there’s a kind of base level of mental tension and busyness that totally evaporates,” Taft says. “I call that my ‘mind being not full.’ Currently, the speed of life doesn’t allow enough interstitial time for things to just kind of settle down.”

Many people in the U.S. and other industrialized countries would wholeheartedly agree with Taft’s sentiments, even if they are not as committed to meditation. A 2010 LexisNexis survey of 1,700 white collar workers in the U.S., China, South Africa, the U.K. and Australia revealed that on average employees spend more than half their workdays receiving and managing information rather than using it to do their jobs; half of the surveyed workers also confessed that they were reaching a breaking point after which they would not be able to accommodate the deluge of data. In contrast to the European Union, which mandates 20 days of paid vacation, the U.S. has no federal laws guaranteeing paid time off, sick leave or even breaks for national holidays. In the Netherlands 26 days of vacation in a given year is typical. In America, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong workers average 10 days off each year. Yet a survey by Harris Interactive found that, at the end of 2012, Americans had an average of nine unused vacation days. And in several surveys Americans have admited that they obsessively check and respond to e-mails from their colleagues or feel obliged to get some work done in between kayaking around the coast of Kauai and learning to pronounce humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

To summarize, Americans and their brains are preoccupied with work much of the time. Throughout history people have intuited that such puritanical devotion to perpetual busyness does not in fact translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy. What if the brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas? “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times. “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

In making an argument for the necessity of mental downtime, we can now add an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence to intuition and anecdote. Why giving our brains a break now and then is so important has become increasingly clear in a diverse collection of new studies investigating: the habits of office workers and the daily routines of extraordinary musicians and athletes; the benefits of vacation, meditation and time spent in parks, gardens and other peaceful outdoor spaces; and how napping, unwinding while awake and perhaps the mere act of blinking can sharpen the mind. What research to date also clarifies, however, is that even when we are relaxing or daydreaming, the brain does not really slow down or stop working. Rather—just as a dazzling array of molecular, genetic and physiological processes occur primarily or even exclusively when we sleep at night—many important mental processes seem to require what we call downtime and other forms of rest during the day. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self.

Click here to read full article

Life in the age of internet addiction: “The vast majority of the American population is mildly addicted to technology”

Anyone who spends their day staring at screens can speak to the modern-day epidemic of eye fatigue. But what is our digital obsession doing to our brains. Researchers have noted a rise in something called Digital Attention Disorder — the addiction to social networks and computers in general.

How does it work? More than 50 years ago, psychologist B.F. Skinner was experimenting on rats and pigeons, and noticed that the unpredictability of reward was a major motivator for animals. If a reward arrives either predictably or too infrequently, the animal eventually loses interest. But when there was anticipation of a reward that comes with just enough frequency, the animals’ brains would consistently release dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that (basically) regulates pleasure.

What does this have to do with the internet? Some researchers believe that intermittent reinforcement — in the form of texts, tweets, and various other social media — may be working on our brains the same way rewards did on Skinner’s rats.

“Internet addiction is the same as any other addiction — excessive release of dopamine,” says Hilarie Cash, executive director of the reStart program for internet addiction and recovery, a Seattle-area rehab program that helps wean people off the internet. “Addiction is addiction. Whether it’s gambling, cocaine, alcohol, or Facebook.”

The vast majority of the American population is mildly addicted to technology, and our clinic treats only very serious cases,” she told me in a phone interview. “Most of the people that come are young adult males around the ages of 18 to 30 who spend a lot of time on the internet. Their health is poor, their social relationships have turned to crap, they have no social confidence or real-world friends. They don’t date. They don’t work.

Cash continued:

Internet and video game addiction starts young. Most young men are given computer or video games when they are five or six years old and therefore their childhood development is profoundly wired for these activities. It’s quite different to drug addicts and alcoholics who are usually exposed to drugs or alcohol closer to the age of 15. Internet addicts usually have 15 to 20 years of addiction on them due to starting younger.

The problem isn’t just young men, either. “Women are getting addicted, too,” Cash told me. “Although women usually become addicted later in life and, more often than not, directly to social media, while men are more adept to becoming addicted to multiplayer games. Women seem to juggle addiction and life better than men.

So how does Cash’s program work? According to the website: “Our professionally trained clinicians understand technology related process addictions, and the impact problematic use has on life. We work with individuals, couples and families to promote a better understanding of problematic technology use; assist users in discovering the underlying issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, ADHD, learning differences, stress, family relationship issues, and addictions) that may be co-occurring with excessive use patterns; and work together to design an individualized plan to promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle.”

Now, at “just under $20,000” for a minimum 45-day internet rehab (60- and 90- day options are available), the reStart program may not be for everyone. Indeed, you could always just… turn off your phone and computer.

Still, the new wave of young internet addicts that Cash describes might be heralding something sinister for future generations: We’ve all seen the ease at which a toddler can operate an iPhone or iPad. These days, maybe kids are just born addicted to the internet.