Do electronics change the brain?

by Becky GINOS

WOODS CROSS—It’s common nowadays to see people with a phone in their hand – even kids. In fact, it’s more unusual if someone doesn’t have an electronic device of some kind at his or her fingertips. Is all that time spent in front of a screen affecting the brain? Studies show it is.

“The national average is 12.5 hours per day on electronics and that doesn’t include TV,” said Dr. Chris Kane, during a special presentation to parents and students at Wood Cross High School last week. Kane is a notable author and speaker who has treated survivors of trauma and addictions. “By the time someone is 60 they’ve spent 19 years of their life viewing electronics.”

Kane showed a humorous video where a man was dressed up as a gorilla walking along a city street to see how many people looked up from their phones and noticed him. Several people didn’t even see him until one of the researchers pointed him out because they were too busy with their phone.

“Studies show just talking can reduce your peripheral vision,” said Kane. “It causes a fundamental visual problem with our faces locked on a tiny screen.”

The brain is made up of millions of neurons. “Ninety percent of what energy we consume is by the brain,” she said. “Drugs are harmful because they tell our neurons to do something they’re not designed for.”

Dopamine is a pleasure seeking neurotransmitter, said Kane. “Every time you see a new image on a screen that’s a dopamine hit. That’s why video games and porn are so harmful,” she said. “We’re giving our brains a cold, making them tired from using them all day.”

Serotonin is produced by what we eat and Oxytocin makes us hug and cuddle, Kane said. “You can only get that by human touch or from animals. Everyone should be getting eight hugs for eight seconds a day,” she said. “I don’t care if you have to grab a hold of your teenager and wrestle him to the ground to give eight hugs. Just find appropriate ways to get that human touch. If you suffer from anxiety or depression increase this.”

Teens’ brains are more likely to become addicted to things more quickly than adults because they’re still developing, Kane said. “One in four teens spend more time socializing online. They spend an average of nine hours per day using electronics. There is a consistent relationship between violent video game use and increased aggressive behavior.”

Lack of sleep is affecting teens as well. “Teens need nine hours of sleep each day,” said Kane. “Not getting enough sleep builds up toxins in the brain.”

Kane said as a society we’re not memorizing as much as we used to which changes the brain as well. “Research shows we’re not reading (actual) books as much because we can get bits of information from other sources.”

Kane suggested the following interventions:

• Turn away from screens at least one hour before bed

• Use ambient light instead of overhead light

• Place screens next to windows instead of in front of windows

She also recommends these natural stimulants:

• Exercise, take walks

• Hugs

• Meditation

• Yoga

• Music (classical, etc.)

• Spiritual experiences

• Deep conversations

• Participate in the arts

“You need to literally tell your teens to ‘take a hike,’” Kane said. “We claim to be multi-tasking but I can prove we’re not. Hum a song in your head, then hum another one at the same time. You can’t do it. We can’t do two things at the same time.”

Kane said she’s not anti-electronics. “They’re not going away and they can do amazing things,” she said. “We’re all addicted to our electronic devices but we’ve created the most social, anti-social society of all time.”

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