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Brains of Techies Contain Less Grey Matter

Update Date: Sep 24, 2014 11:13 PM EDT

The brains of media multitaskers contain less gray matter than those of their less tech-savvy counterparts, according to new research.

The latest study, which shows that people who frequently use several media devices at the same time have lower grey-matter density in one region of the brain, supports previous findings linking media-multitasking to poor attention and emotional problems.

Neuroscientists Kep kee Loh and Dr Ryota Kanai of the Univesity of Sussex used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the brain structures of 75 adults who filled out questionnaires of how often they used media.

After accounting for individual personality traits, researchers found that people who used more media devices also had smaller grey matter density in the part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region linked to 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-emotional well-being. Our study was the first to reveal links between media multitasking and brain structure," Loh said in a news release.

"The exact mechanisms of these changes are still unclear," Loh concluded. "Although it is conceivable that individuals with small ACC are more susceptible to multitasking situations due to weaker ability in cognitive control or socio-emotional regulation, it is equally plausible that higher levels of exposure to multitasking situations leads to structural changes in the ACC. A longitudinal study is required to unambiguously determine the direction of causation."

The study was published September 24 in the journal Plos One

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