Multi-Tasking on Gadgets may lead to Lower Brain Density: MRI Study

Do you tweet while you watch TV? Surf the net while you Skype? Work on multiple screens simultaneously? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider a device detox–new MRI research has shown lowered gray-matter volume in such multi-taskers.

The study, entitled Higher Media Multi-Tasking Activity is Associated with Smaller Gray-Matter Density in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, was One gadget at a time makes a stronger brain.published September 24 in the journal Plos One by researchers from the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness. The paper begins: “Media multi tasking, or the concurrent consumption of multiple media forms, is increasingly prevalent in today’s society and has been associated with negative psychosocial and cognitive impacts. Individuals who engage in heavier media multi-tasking are found to perform worse on cognitive control tasks and exhibit more socio-emotional difficulties.”

To determine if fMRI could prove this, the researchers scanned the brains of 75 healthy adults who had previously completed a questionnaire which determined their media habits (shows watched, gadgets used, articles read, including where and when said media was consumed). Their results confirmed that the participants who used multiple media devices at once showed less gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex region of the brain, a crucial area governing cognitive and emotional responses.

However, as New York Magazine previously reported on this study, correlation may not equal causation. MIT neuroscientist (not involved in the research) stated: “It could be (in fact is possibly more likely) that this relationship is the other way around,” meaning, quite simply, that anyone unable to focus on one media device at a time may have had less gray-matter density to begin with!

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