Screen time messing up our brains – biologically!

abnormal braincrop Red areas designate abnormal white matter in internet addicted teens. *

Screen time for humans has now been proven to affect the biology of the brain. Victoria Dunckley, MD explains this in her book Reset Your Child’s Brain. I have friends with unruly children that forget their homework, can’t sleep at night, daydream a lot, and worse yet for the parents, are defiant and belligerent. Studies have shown that video gaming and time staring at screens (including iPhones) are affecting us all – and not for the good. This is an excerpt from an article Dunckley had published in Psychology Today (link on our sidebar).

Multiple studies have shown atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011 (link is external), Yuan 2011 (link is external), Weng 2013 (link is external),and Weng 2012 (link is external)). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control (“getting stuff done”). Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known is the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.

Research has also demonstrated loss of integrity to the brain’s white matter (Lin 2012 (link is external), Yuan 2011 (link is external), Hong 2013 (link is external) and Weng 2013 (link is external)). “Spotty” white matter translates into loss of communication within the brain, including connections to and from various lobes of the same hemisphere, links between the right and left hemispheres, and paths between higher (cognitive) and lower (emotional and survival) brain centers. White matter also connects networks from the brain to the body and vice versa. Interrupted connections may slow down signals, “short-circuit” them, or cause them to be erratic (“misfire”).

*Source: Lin, Zhou,Lei, et al., used with permission. Victoria Dunckley, MD article in Psychology Today.

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