Did you ever stop and wondered that the countless number of hours you spent on the internet may be changing the way your brain functions. An international research team seems to agree. This team from Western Sydney University, Kings College, Harward University, Oxford University and University of Manchester say that the internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations in specific areas of cognition, which may reflect changes in the brain, affecting our attentional capacities, memory processes, and social interaction.
This one of a kind review was published in World Psychiatry, world’s leading psychiatric research journal. The research team investigated leading hypotheses on how the Internet may alter cognitive processes, and further examined the extent to which these hypotheses were supported by recent findings from psychological, psychiatric and neuroimaging research.
The extensive report, led by Dr Joseph Firth, Senior Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University and Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester, combined the evidence to produce revised models on how the Internet could affect the brain’s structure, function and cognitive development.
“The key findings of this report are that high-levels of Internet use could indeed impact on many functions of the brain. For example, the limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the Internet encourages us towards constantly holding a divided attention – which then in turn may decrease our capacity for maintaining concentration on a single task,” said Dr Firth.
“Additionally, the online world now presents us with a uniquely large and constantly-accessible resource for facts and information, which is never more than a few taps and swipes away.
“Given we now have most of the world’s factual information literally at our fingertips, this appears to have the potential to begin changing the ways in which we store, and even value, facts and knowledge in society, and in the brain.”
“The bombardment of stimuli via the Internet, and the resultant divided attention commonly experienced, presents a range of concerns,” said Professor Sarris.
“I believe that this, along with the increasing #Instagramification of society, has the ability to alter both the structure and functioning of the brain, while potentially also altering our social fabric.
“To minimise the potential adverse effects of high-intensity multi-tasking Internet usage, I would suggest mindfulness and focus practice, along with use of ‘Internet hygiene’ techniques (e.g. reducing online multitasking, ritualistic ‘checking’ behaviours, and evening online activity, while engaging in more in-person interactions),” said Professor Sarris.
Oxford research fellow and study co-author, Dr Josh Firth added: “It’s clear the Internet has drastically altered the opportunity for social interactions, and the contexts within which social relationships can take place. So, it’s now critical to understand the potential for the online world to actually alter our social functioning, and determine which aspects of our social behaviour will change, and which won’t.”