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How the Internet Is Changing Your Brain

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A presentation for Texas Public Radio's "Think Science" panel on 02.22.19, by Dr. Allen Novian.

Published in: Health & Medicine
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How the Internet Is Changing Your Brain

  1. 1. H O W T H E I N T E R N E T I S C H A N G I N G Y O U R B R A I N O R T H E T E C H N O L O G I C A L A D A P T A T I O N O F T H E B R A I N D . A L L E N N O V I A N , P H D , L M F T , L P C - S , B C N
  2. 2. D . A L L E N N O V I A N • PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist • Licensed Professional Counselor- Supervisor • Board Certified in Neurofeedback • I have been in private practice since 2008 working with ages 9-94
  3. 3. D . A L L E N N O V I A N • Some of the issues I work with are • ADD/ ADHD • Anxiety • Depression • OCD • PTSD • Learning Disabilities • Sensory Integration Disorder/Sensory Processing Disorder
  4. 4. A L A R M I N G S T A T I S T I C S O N I N T E R N E T U S E : • People are spending twice as much time online compared to 10 years ago, fueled by increasing use of tablets and smartphones which go everywhere with them. • Greatest increase is in the 16-24 year old category almost tripling from 10 hours 24 min to 27 hours 30 minutes
  5. 5. 0 7.5 15 22.5 30 Total Internet Use At Work/School At home Elsewhere 12 3 8 1 15 3 11 1 17 4 11 2 22 6 13 2 23 6 15 2 24 7 15 3 2007 2011 2013 2015 2016 2017 V O L U M E O F I N T E R N E T U S A G E P E R W E E K 2 0 0 7 - 2 0 1 7 S o u r c e : O f c o m A d u l t M e d i a L i t e r a c y T r a c k e r 2 0 1 7 I N S A - C . H o w m a n y h o u r s i n a t y p i c a l w e e k w o u l d y o u s a y y o u s p e n d o n l i n e a t h o m e / a t y o u r w o r k p l a c e o f p l a c e o f e d u c a t i o n / a n y w h e r e e l s e ? ( u n p r o m p t e d r e s p o n s e s , s i n g l e c o d e d ) B a s e : A l l a d u l t s a g e s 1 6 + w h o g o o n l i n e ( 1 5 5 3 i n 2 0 1 6 , 1 5 7 0 i n 2 0 1 7
  6. 6. W H A T W E K N O W A B O U T T H E B R A I N N E U R O L O G Y Neurogenesis Neuroplasticity
  7. 7. W H A T W E K N O W A B O U T T H E B R A I N N E U R O L O G Y The brain creates new neurons especially in the memory, learning, and safety centers. Neurogenesis
  8. 8. W H A T W E K N O W A B O U T T H E B R A I N N E U R O L O G Y The brain connects and disconnects pathways based on what we think and experience. It is always adapting to our internal and external environment. Neuroplasticity
  9. 9. W H A T W E K N O W A B O U T T H E B R A I N N E U R O L O G Y The key is that Neuroplasticity is generally value-neutral. The brain simply connects and disconnects based on repetition and the emotions associated with that repetition. Neuroplasticity
  10. 10. W H A T W E K N O W A B O U T T H E B R A I N N E U R O L O G Y “What Fires Together Wires Together” ~ D O N A L D H E B B , 1 9 4 9
  11. 11. W H A T H A P P E N S O V E R T I M E W H E N W E E N G A G E W I T H I N T E R N E T O R D I G I T A L T E C H N O L O G Y A T A H I G H R A T E ? N E U R O L O G Y W E ’ R E G E N E R A L L Y W O R S E O F F I N T E R M S O F W E A K E R M E M O R I E S S H O R T E R A T T E N T I O N S P A N S P O O R E M O T I O N A L R E G U L A T I O N A N D L O W E R I N F O R M A T I O N P R O C E S S I N G A B I L I T Y ( C R I T I C A L T H O U G H T ) W E ’ R E G E N E R A L L Y B E T T E R O F F I N T E R M S O F I N C R E A S E D C A P A C I T Y F O R F I N D I N G A N D O R G A N I Z I N G K N O W L E D G E M U L T I - T A S K I N G L E A R N I N G N E W S O P H I S T I C A T E D W A Y S O F T H I N K I N G
  12. 12. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : S L E E P A T T E N T I O N M E M O R Y C R I T I C A L T H I N K I N G N O V E L T Y F O C U S R E W A R D S E E K I N G E M O T I O N S • Neurology
  13. 13. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : S L E E P Excessive internet use is associated with sleep disruption. Sleep deprivation can lead to negative outcomes such as • fatigue • trouble focusing • difficulty regulating emotions and stress • compromised immune system. Accessing the internet via a mobile device when in bed may make it harder for your mind to relax, further inhibiting sleep. In addition, the electromagnetic radiation associated with mobile devices has been found to delay melatonin production which helps with falling asleep and staying asleep. Excessive exposure to blue light emitted from the screens of internet-connected devices can also disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, making sleep more difficult.
  14. 14. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : A T T E N T I O N The internet encourages us to multitask, if only because it’s so easy to switch between tasks and open multiple windows in your browser. Research shows that multitasking adversely affects how you learn. Even if you learn while multi-tasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily. Information often gets mis-stored in the area of your brain responsible for procedures and skills instead of facts and ideas. The constant jumping around and interruptions in attention from multitasking make it much harder to sustain attention, to think about one thing for a long period of time, and to think deeply when new stimuli are pouring at you all day long.
  15. 15. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : M E M O R Y Research shows that as we use the Internet to support and extend our memory, we become more reliant on it. Whereas before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don’t bother. As the internet and more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively dependent on the internet as an “external hard drive” for our brains. This reliance on the internet for information and recreation has even been shown in research to activate the same brain pathways and neurotransmitters associated with addiction, so the dependence is just as physically impactful as a drug.
  16. 16. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : C R I T I C A L T H I N K I N G The internet generally reduces or limits the opportunity for • deeper thinking • deliberation • abstract thinking Instead you tend to rely more on surface-level information, and that is not a good recipe for creativity, invention, or critical thinking. Research suggests neural connections or networks between the frontal lobe and other important areas of the brain are becoming less connected in favor of stronger connections in networks with a preference for surface-level information.
  17. 17. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : The more you acclimate yourself to the internet and the constant flow of information that comes through it, the less able you are to figure out what’s important to focus on. Instead, your mind gets attracted just to what’s new rather than what’s important. What’s new may be completely devoid of meaning, but the part of the brain that responds to it tends to trick us into thinking it’s significant. N O V E L T Y F O C U S
  18. 18. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : Each time we dispatch an email in one way or another, we feel a sense of accomplishment, and our brain gets a dollop of reward hormones telling us we accomplished something. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. So, in a sense, the more we pursue empty rewards like Facebook “likes” and Twitter “favorites,” the dumber we get, and the harder it is to maintain some level of balance and self-awareness over our habits. R E W A R D S E E K I N G
  19. 19. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : E M O T I O N S Emotional control requires balance throughout the brain’s networks. One of the most common things I see in my office is emotional regulation being thrown off because the brain is hyper connected or hypo connected. Because of the lack of balance being created by reward-seeking patterns and the constant dopamine floods from technology use these connection patterns have become very common, and the effect seems to be more dramatic in developing brains than in fully matured brains. Research linked depression and school burnout to adolescents’ excessive internet use. Interestingly, it works both ways: The researchers also found that internet or digital addiction is more likely to happen if adolescents already lack interest in and feel cynicism toward school. So as is always the case in research we need to be careful in jumping to conclusions about what causes what.
  20. 20. S U M M A R Y P O I N T S Key question to consider By using the internet regularly throughout the day, are we creating brains that are helped by quick access to knowledge, information, recreation, and social connection Or, are we instead creating brains that are addicted to internet related information, recreation, and social connection
  21. 21. S U M M A R Y P O I N T S The research is still unclear, but what has always seemed to help is to find BALANCE VARIETY PHYSICAL CONNECTION EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
  22. 22. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : A A P R E C O M M E N D A T I O N S F O R C H I L D R E N ’ S M E D I A U S E • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. • Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high- quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing. • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them. • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits (around 2 hours) on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, social engagement and other behaviors essential to health.
  23. 23. W A Y S I N W H I C H T H E I N T E R N E T I S P O T E N T I A L L Y C H A N G I N G O U R B R A I N F U N C T I O N : A A P R E C O M M E N D A T I O N S F O R C H I L D R E N ’ S M E D I A U S E What you can do: Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline. Remember when using the internet or doing anything in life…
  24. 24. “What Fires Together Wires Together” Y O U R B R A I N D E P E N D S O N I T .

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