A study has indicated that extensive playing of games, use of the internet, and use of social networking sites could be “infantilising” the brain.The quote comes via the Daily Mail from Baroness Susan Greenfield, the director of the Royal Institution, who also believes that the use of all three may be linked to obesity.The gist is that when something goes wrong on a computer game you keep playing, while in real life, if you fall out of a tree (to use the example given) you learn not to repeat the mistake. Apparently, they also make other forms of risk-taking more appealing, such as eating too much, or eating the wrong foods, which is where the obesity link comes in.This comes out of a seminar at the House of Lords, and it all revolves around the pre-frontal cortex, with the hypothesis being “You use it or lose it, and if you don’t use it, you are infantilising the brain, it won’t come on stream as much.” The pre-frontal cortex being less active results in more risk-taking, such as eating fatty foods, and, apparently, the fatter the person, the less active the pre-frontal cortex.Greenfield is quick to stress “This is just a suggestion, I am not saying it is a causal relationship. But surely if we are exposing our brains to an environment that has a short attention span, if that happens to you in the first few years of your life for long periods of time, might it be the case that when they go to school and are asked to sit still for half an hour, might there not be some cases of fidgeting?”Likewise, she also emphasises that she believes the answer lies outside of limiting computer use, stating “If you are stopping someone from doing something, that is not ideal. If you are telling someone not to do something, you must give them an alternative. What we need is research to find out why it is so addictive.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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