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  • Writer's pictureEmily Fountas

How the Internet Changes the Brain

A study published in Science Daily on June 5, 2019, has some astonishing repercussions. It was found by an international team of researchers from Western Sydney University, Harvard University, Kings College, Oxford University and University of Manchester Internet can produce both short and long-term changes in how we learn with implications for attention, memory and social interactions.

Led by Dr Joseph Firth, Senior Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University and Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester, the study looked at how neuroscience, psychology and neuroimagingcombined the evidence to produce revised models on how the Internet could affect the brain's structure and function.

"The key findings of this report are that high-levels of Internet use could indeed impact on many functions of the brain. For example, the limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the Internet encourages us towards constantly holding a divided attention -- which then in turn may decrease our capacity for maintaining concentration on a single task," said Dr Firth.

"Additionally, the online world now presents us with a uniquely large and constantly-accessible resource for facts and information, which is never more than a few taps and swipes away.

"Given we now have most of the world's factual information literally at our fingertips, this appears to have the potential to begin changing the ways in which we store, and even value, facts and knowledge in society, and in the brain."

Though estimates for the prevalence of internet overuse range from 6% to 25% depending on the country, many therapists, physicians and parents see this problem as much wider in its effect. There is no untouched group or individual with smartphone ownership at over 80% in the U.S.

The effect of internet use in children is profound. Some studies indicate a thinning of the brain cortex in kids who use electronic devices for seen hours of more per day, with two hours of screen time impacting cognition, resulting in lower test scores.

Children are also more susceptible to addiction. According to Dr Joseph Mercola in "Heavy Screen Time Changes Children's Brain" infants need live interaction with language-using adults or children in order t learn to speak--this cannot be done with videos. Further, Dr. Mercola writes, "babies do not transfer what they learn from the iPad to the real world. For example, the ability to play with virtual Legos does not transfer over into the skill or manipulating real Lego blocks."

A further problem is the emitting of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Dr. Mercola cites research by professor Martin Pall, Ph.D. that reveals EMFs activate voltage gated calcium channels. . . in cell membranes which. . . lead to the most destructive free radicals known to man". Eventually this EMF exposure leads to depression and possibly dementia, according to professor Pall.

NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University. "How the Internet may be changing the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2019. <>.

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