Media multi-tasking could alter brain structure

Published: September 28, 2014
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People who practice yoga and meditation for longer periods can better train their brain to use gadgets effectively in daily life. PHOTOS: FILE

People who practice yoga and meditation for longer periods can better train their brain to use gadgets effectively in daily life. PHOTOS: FILE

LONDON: 

According to a recently conducted research, jumping from screen to screen — using mobile phones, laptops and other media devices simultaneously — could be altering the structure of your brain, impacting your cognition and social and emotional well-being.Compared to those who have a single device at their disposal, people who frequently use multiple electronic devices at the same time tend to have lower grey-matter density in the part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the region that is notably responsible for the cognitive and emotional control functions.

“Media multitasking is becoming more prevalent in our lives today and there is increasing concern about its impacts on our cognition and social and emotional well-being. Our study was the first to reveal links between media multi-tasking and brain structure,” said neuroscientist, Kep kee Loh from the University of Sussex in Britain.

Scientists had previously demonstrated that brain structure can be altered upon prolonged exposure to novel environments and experience. The researchers pointed out that their study reveals a link rather than causality, “The exact mechanisms of these changes are still unclear,” Kee Loh added. The research supports earlier studies showing connections between media multi-tasking activity and poor attention in the face of distractions, along with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.

They added that a long-term study needs to be carried out to understand whether high concurrent media usage leads to changes in the brain structure, or whether those with less-dense grey matter are more attracted to media multi-tasking.

Further researches have revealed that people who practice yoga and meditation for longer periods can better train their brain to use gadgets effectively in daily life.

In recent years, there has been a lot of attention on improving the computer side of the brain-computer interface but very little attention to the brain side.

“This study shows that looking closer at the brain side may provide a valuable tool for reducing obstacles for brain-computer interface success in early stages,” explained Bin He, a Biomedical engineering professor from University of Minnesota’s college of science and engineering.

It could have major implications for treatments of people who are paralysed or have neuro-degenerative diseases.

In the study, researchers looked at 36 participants with one group of 12 having at least one year of experience in yoga or meditation against a second group of 24 physically fit participants who had little or no yoga or meditation experience.

Both groups participated in three, two-hour experiments over a period of four weeks in which they wore a high tech, non-invasive cap over the scalp that picked up brain activity.

The participants were asked to move a computer cursor across the screen by imaging left or right hand movements.

“The participants with yoga or meditation experience were twice as likely to complete the brain-computer interface task by the end of 30 trials and learned three times faster than their counterparts for the left-right cursor movement experiments,” professor He informed. 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2014.

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