PostHeaderIcon Could The Internet Be Shrinking Your Brain?

Remember how your mother used to tell you that sitting too close to the TV could ruin your vision? She was full of crap. But new research indicates that another one of Mother Dearest’s little foibles may turn out to be true after after: too much Internet could rot your brain. Well, kinda. Using a very limited testing group, Chinese researchers have discovered possible evidence that excessive Internet use can actually change physical characteristics inside your head.

The study identified 18 college-aged students who fit the bill as an Internet addict by playing online games for 10+ hours a day and answering “Yes” to questions like “Have you taken the risk of losing a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?” The researchers then scanned the noggins of the Web-heads and a control group of people who’ve never sold their grandmother’s jewelry for Internet.

“The researchers discovered several small regions in online addicts’ brains shrunk, in some cases as much as a 10 to 20 percent,” Scientific American reports. Interestingly, the shrinkage was more pronounced in people who had been power-using the Web for longer. The tests also showed increased white matter in areas of the brain related to memory and decreased white matter in sections tied to “cognitive and executive functions.”

So what’s that mean? That’s a little less clear. Scientific American theorizes that the changes in white matter could result in “Internet addicts” having poor decision-making abilities and difficulty storing and retrieving memories.

If you’re on the Web around the clock, don’t go cold turkey quite yet. There’s no need to worry – too much – until studies with larger groups show the same results. In the meantime, a little less Minecraft and a little more sunshine may be a good thing.

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