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Media Science

Study: Multimedia Multitasking May Be Shrinking Human Brains 87

An anonymous reader writes It seems that switching between laptop, smart phone and tablet may be shrinking our brains and leaving us prone to higher levels of anxiety and stress reports new research from the University of Sussex in the UK. The researchers point out that the link is currently a correlation rather than a proof of causation, but they do suggest that people who used a higher number of media devices concurrently also had smaller grey matter density — in other words they have smaller brains.
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Study: Multimedia Multitasking May Be Shrinking Human Brains

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  • Oh crap (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @05:33PM (#47998295)

    Web developers need to test their websites on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones all day long. We're as good as hot dog water sunshine, bread blue?

    • Re:Oh crap (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2014 @05:35PM (#47998319)

      It was already well-known that web developers were morons long before these devices became ubiquitous.

      • Re:Oh crap (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @09:26PM (#47999637)

        If web developers are morons for being able to make their stuff work on multiple operating systems on multiple versions of multiple browsers with standards that work half the time, then regular programmers who can't even optimize their programs for a single platform are just useless idiots who complain for nothing.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually the fact that you need such extensive work and humongous libraries just to get cross-browser stuff to work simply justifies my point. Web developers are morons.

      • by nwaack ( 3482871 )
        How did the anonymous coward's first comment get modded as funny, but ArcadeMan's rebuttal get modded as a troll? Are /. members biased against web developers?
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Because ArcadeMan is just wrong.

    • You must be drain bamaged.
  • This story/theme seems to get posted at least once a year. Does that make it truthier? And given the benefits of this electronic crap; is the tradeoff worth it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Are you sure it has been posted before? I don't recall it. Let me check my other notebook, my tablet, and my phone to be sure. Wait, what were we taking about again?
  • Moths (Score:4, Funny)

    by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @05:40PM (#47998347)
    Moths are attracted to bright lights, and they have very small brains. I'm seeing some kind of correlation here......
  • why PC-only gamers are the master race

  • Not a new concern (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday September 25, 2014 @05:53PM (#47998427) Homepage

    This idea that multitasking and short attention spans have a negative impact on cognition is not new. It goes back at least to Nicholas Carr's 2008 magazine article that served as the basis for his book The Shallows [amazon.com] .

    I think there are philosophical issues here. While the human biological organism might be "getting stupider", if our electronic devices are seen as augmentations, then doesn't our total cyborg person remain just as intelligent? That is, people have not become stupider, they have just moved some information processing from the brains in their skull to the devices in their heads.

    The appearance of emotional issues might be a serious problem, but on the other hand, let's see how future generations who grow up with electronics from their infancy feel.

    • Sorry, that should have read "to the devices in their hands". We haven't got to neural implants yet.
    • This idea that multitasking and short attention spans have a negative impact on cognition is not new. It goes back at least to Nicholas Carr's 2008 magazine article

      lol no, it goes back to Socrates

    • by pmotuja ( 787913 )
      I think it would be more intelligent to realize that these computers don't exist in nature. Humans created them. If you can't understand this fact then maybe there is a self esteem issue. Also, then maybe working the devices would be more common than the devices 'working' humans. And brains would be getting bigger. Geocaching is not nature.
      • by rHBa ( 976986 )

        ...these computers don't exist in nature. Humans created them.

        By that rational ant hills don't exist in nature because the ants created them.

        • by pmotuja ( 787913 )

          By that rational ant hills don't exist in nature because the ants created them.

          No. Ant hills are organized dirt. Computers come from the human brain. There's a difference.

    • This idea that multitasking and short attention spans have a negative...

      TL;DR

    • if our electronic devices are seen as augmentations, then doesn't our total cyborg person remain just as intelligent?

      I think no, because crucial aspects intelligence include understanding and creating thinking, which none of these devices can help us with (yet?).

    • That is, people have not become stupider, they have just moved some information processing from the brains in their skull to the devices in their (hands).

      Well, the problem might be that while some people might be remaining smart and advancing our overall knowledge and technology, that on balance individuals are getting stupider and relying more on the tech.

      So, if we're going to end up with a bunch of drooling idiots over time (and internet videos tells me there's already plenty ;-) .. is that a good thing f

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...had smaller grey matter density â" in other words they have smaller brains.

    That's not synonymous at all.

    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      Nor does brain size particularly correlate with intelligence, or we wouldn't have the big, stupid oaf stereotype.

      I do find it entirely plausible, however, the idiots have short attention spans, and flit from distraction to distraction constantly.

      • I do find it entirely plausible, however, the idiots have short attention spans, and flit from distraction to distraction constantly.

        Everybody has a relative short attention spans these days, we're just bombarded with information day in day out.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @06:06PM (#47998503) Journal
    If it is indeed possible to see one's grey matter shrink from engaging in certain activities, then the reverse is also likely true.

    Though it has been suggested by some that you cannot work out your brain to improve its performance, I have never believed this to be the case.

    In my experience, constant problem solving improves one's cognitive abilities.

  • Density (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @07:21PM (#47998967)

    From the summary: ... had smaller grey matter density — in other words they have smaller brains.

    That is NOT what density means. Density is an intrinsic property, and does not in any way imply smaller size.

    Also, the correlation between brain size and intelligence [wikipedia.org] is very weak.

    • by Poorcku ( 831174 )
      Sorry, but I had to login just to answer to you. At an r=.40 the variance explained by brain size is about 20%. Which is huge. May I remind you that politicians and other zealots forbade smoking in public locations (at least in Europe) for correlations than this ;)
  • by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @07:51PM (#47999151)
    Girls between 20 and 24 seem to be seriously addicted to smart phones. I'm seeing them totally disabled and unable to stop and staying on those phones 24/7 and missing sleep and abandoning work and school and even skipping bathing to spend more time on their smart phones. We might as well open the rehabs now as a tide of these young women is about to become a huge problem. It is today's version of the video game addicts of a few years ago.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Between 20 to 24? I suggest you observe the ages below that from 14 years old my daughter has not stopped looking at her cellphone. not even for showering... She uses a ziplock baggie so she can take the phone in the shower.

      Honestly, girls after age 13 are bat shit insane until about 30.

      • Honestly, girls after age 13 are bat shit insane until about 30.

        30? Nope, it's more like an eternity.

      • Let me guess, you are about 30. Usual my-generation-is-better bias.
        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          Your guess is way off.
          Boys are mentally ill idiots from age 6 until age 30 as well. Want proof? Youtube has all the proof that is needed.

          There are some exceptions, but they are very rare.

  • What doesn't? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2014 @10:12PM (#47999841)

    Porn shrinks your brain [dailymail.co.uk]

    Lack of sleep shrinks your brain [cnn.com]

    Multi-tasking shrinks your brain [dailymail.co.uk]

    Religion shrinks your brain [scientificamerican.com]

    Fat shrinks your brain [bebrainfit.com]

    Elevated Blood Sugar shrinks your brain [drperlmutter.com]

    Stress shrinks your brain [peakperfor...aining.org]

    Aging shrinks your brain [wsj.com]

    Alcohol shrinks your brain [sciencedaily.com]

    Vegetarianism shrinks your brain [fitness.com]

    Type 2 diabetes shrinks your Brain [newsmaxhealth.com]

    Cell phones shrink your brain [relfe.com]

    I think medical fear mongering is shrinking our brains.

    And yes, I did search for "Climate Change is shrinking our brains." No hits. So there you go MSM; a perfectly good theme that no one has used yet.

  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Thursday September 25, 2014 @11:10PM (#48000049)

    ...is here. This is not news. For proof, just walk along the average school route during the morning rush, kids everywhere aren't talking, they've got their faces firmly planted in Candy Crush on their super-flexible brand new hot pink iphones while their parents fight for parking spots as close to the gates as they think it's possible to get and still be able to open the doors (failing which the kids are pushed out through the sunroof). Technology and in particular Facebook has killed the art of communication and social media in general has turned the connected generation into a bunch of ignorant cunts. And woe betide the first one of you whippersnappers who clicks "Like"!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ok, this is getting a little ridicules but it appears people are not even willing to copy/paste article titles. Brains are not "shrinking". Part of brain associated with certain traits, like cognition is,

    Higher media multi-tasking activity is associated with smaller gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex [sussex.ac.uk]

    If you have no CLUE what "anterior cingulate cortex", you can't just delete it and substitute BRAIN in its place.

    So how about "Multimedia Multitasking Associated with Structural Changes in th

  • what about those who have multiple screens. run music and tv all while going through 100's of email and making comments on slashdot?
  • I, Damaramu, shall regret this...
  • Wow, didn't know something like that would be possible.

Federal grants are offered for... research into the recreation potential of interplanetary space travel for the culturally disadvantaged.

Working...