Simultaneously using mobile phones, laptops and other media devices could be changing the structure of our brains.
A study shows that people who frequently use several media devices at the same time have lower grey-matter density in one region of the brain compared to those who use just one device occasionally.
The research supports earlier studies showing connections between high media-multitasking activity and poor attention in the face of distractions, along with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.
But neuroscientists Kepkee Loh and Ryota Kanai say their study reveals a link only and that a long-term study needs to be carried out to understand whether high concurrent media usage leads to changes in the brain structure.
The researchers at the University of Sussex used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brain structures of 75 adults.
Kepkee Loh says:
“Media multitasking is becoming more prevalent in our lives today and there is increasing concern about its impacts on our cognition and social-emotional well-being. Our study was the first to reveal links between media multitasking and brain structure.”
Scientists have previously demonstrated that brain structure can be altered with prolonged exposure to novel environments and experience.
The neural pathways and synapses can change based on behaviours, environment and emotions.
Other studies have shown that training, such as learning to juggle, or taxi drivers learning the map of London, can increase grey-matter densities in certain parts of the brain.
“The exact mechanisms of these changes are still unclear,” says Kepkee Loh.
The study is published in the journal PLOS One on 24 September 2014
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