Saturday, September 10, 2011

'Surfing the web is turning our brains to mush'

And where is the longditudinal double-blind evidence for this assertion? It's just opinion

HAVE you found yourself watching TV while talking on the phone and checking your emails? Already distracted reading that sentence? Well, you're not alone, the Herald Sun reported.

The internet has not only changed our lives, it's changed the way our brains work, according to research by visiting UK social psychologist Sheila Keegan.

Dr Keegan says the internet is reducing our ability to think and concentrate and, with long-term use, could cause brain dysfunction. "We spend huge and a growing number of hours on the internet and, as a result, our brains are returning to shallow thinking," she said. "We are being more easily distracted, and our thinking has developed a staccato quality that lacks concentration.

"The problem is so widespread that studies have also concluded that long-term internet addiction would result in chronic dysfunction of our brains, which is a pretty scary thought!"

Dr Keegan said more research was needed to be done on the long-term effects of persistent use of the internet, particularly in young children.

She said US research had revealed some children as young as five spent up to six hours a day in front of a screen. Lengthy periods spent alone in front of the TV or on the computer meant many young children were not developing the social skills they needed for later life.

"Kids need to have a good balance. They can learn a lot from the internet," she said. "But the human brain is quite malleable. It's hard to say what the long-term effects will be. There needs to be research. But it's a bit like climate change. We can't wait for it to happen."

Dr Keegan presented her paper, Are we losing our minds and should we be bothered?, at the Australian Marketing and Social Research conference in Sydney this week.


Rake some leaves to cut dementia risk: How exercise that gets the heart pumping slows condition

Garbage in garbage out. This seems mainly to be a survery of epidemiological opinion. Meta-anayses are important but can very easily be biased by author expectations

It might not feel great at the time, but raking in the autumn leaves and shovelling the winter’s snow has a silver lining. In fact, any exercise that gets the heart pumping may reduce the risk of dementia and slow the condition's progression once it starts, according to a Mayo Clinic study published this month in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Researchers examined the role of aerobic exercise in preserving cognitive abilities and concluded that it should not be overlooked as an important therapy against dementia. The researchers broadly defined exercise as enough aerobic physical activity to raise the heart rate and increase the body's need for oxygen. Examples include walking, gym workouts and activities at home such as shoveling snow or raking leaves.

'We culled through all the scientific literature we could find on the subject of exercise and cognition, including animal studies and observational studies, reviewing over 1,600 papers, with 130 bearing directly on this issue.

'We attempted to put together a balanced view of the subject,' says J. Eric Ahlskog, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic.

'We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed.'

The researchers note that brain imaging studies have consistently revealed objective evidence of favorable effects of exercise on human brain integrity.

Also, they note, animal research has shown that exercise generates trophic factors that improve brain functioning, plus exercise facilitates brain connections (neuroplasticity).

More research is needed on the relationship between exercise and cognitive function, the study's authors say, but they encourage exercise, in general, especially for those with or worried about cognitive issues. 'Whether addressing our patients in primary care or neurology clinics, we should continue to encourage exercise for not only general health, but also cognitive health,' Dr. Ahlskog says.


1 comment:

John A said...

"Surfing the web is turning our brains to mush"

I vaguely recall much the same being said about the printing press, which made books cheap enough that non-aristo classes could afford them. Is it dysfunctional, or is it enhanced function, to multi-task? It is sometimes inappropriate, strapping a laptop to your auto`s steering wheel, but always? Or even mostly?

"She said US research had revealed some children as young as five spent up to six hours a day in front of a screen" which could be in part because parents are afraid to push even teens outdoors to play.

- - - - - - -
Exercise: the study result may be valid - or not. It is an indicator that further research could be useful. But shovelling the winter’s snow? Many years ago I noted that my parent's friends were having a lot of heart attacks doing that, and decided to use power gear to accomplish the task rather than do it with a shovel.