How mobile phone effects on brain
Mobile phone effects on brain – Mobile phone or Smartphones are particularly dangerous for children, among other things because they also transport sexual or violent content. A government adviser therefore calls for a mobile phone ban for children under the age of 14.
Henriette hesitates when she is supposed to climb into the tiny cabin. A little later, the two-year-old sits on her mother’s lap. The eyes shine. In front of her is a screen, a movie is playing. Suddenly she listens. Something buzzes, similar to a cell phone. What Henriette does not know: A special camera for eye tracking records her eye movements and pupil size.
Henriette sits at the center of an experiment in the children’s laboratory in Magdeburg. It’s about attention, distraction and the structure of the brain. It’s about current research – also on the influence of digital permanent use.
Outside the cabin, Professor Nicole Wetzel’s eyes wander back and forth between several monitors. To her, the data of test persons is transmitted inside. White blouse, dark jacket, jeans, this is how the 45-year-old sits in the laboratory at the Leibniz Institute of Neurobiology. She wants to explore how attention, learning and memory of children and adolescents develop.
“The question is not if, but how”
A hot topic in times when many kids can hardly keep their fingers off their mobile phones. At a time when health insurance companies warn against Internet addiction and social media dependence. Although the Magdeburgers originally conduct general research on brain activity in learning and remembering and not on media impact. But Wetzel’s attention attempts are a building block in the mosaic of studies worldwide that explore the work of cells in the brain.
What traces does the permanent presence of smartphones leave in our minds? Are there deformed Twitter or Facebook brains, as some pessimists warn?
“Basically, we still know relatively little about how digital media are changing the brain and its activity,” says Nicole Wetzel. The expert smiles contagiously friendly. There is no question that they will change it. Because everything we experience, what we learn, whether we read a book or build a sand castle, changes our brain. The question is not whether, but how exactly.”
The younger, the more impaired
During attempts, her team controls the eyes – as with Henriette. The pupils react not only to light, but also to cognitive processes. “When we hear something surprising, our pupils expand,” explains the researcher. Actually, the test persons are supposed to perform a task. When a mobile phone rings in between, the researchers can see with their eye trackers that someone is distracted from their actual goal.
Another measurement method begins with the electric currents in the brain. For this, the subjects are pulled hoods with electrodes on their heads for an EEG. The measuring caps record which districts in the head get going when a stimulus arrives. Certain patterns allow researchers to draw conclusions about how distracted someone is.
“When a noise is recorded, the children usually react more slowly or make more mistakes,” says Wetzel. And the younger the children are, the more they are impaired in their performance.
Now our thinking apparatus is not a hard drive on which you only store and retrieve, but a sensitive, highly convertible organ. The brain reacts quickly to external influences, it changes its networks. Experts speak of plasticity.
“You can think of it simplified as a network of paths: At the beginning, with a toddler, many paths are laid out,” explains Wetzel. And the paths that children often use are being converted into large, wide roads where traffic flows quickly. Little-used paths wither away – their expansion becomes more tedious later in life. “If I pull out my mobile phone many times a day, it will eventually become such a wide street – to stay in the picture.”
If people are quickly distracted from mobile phone messages and beeps at a young age, if they can hardly control interference, is deep understanding hindered? “There is still a lot to be done and explored,” says Wetzel. Researchers would report very different results: attention can be trained with certain computer games. On the one hand. On the other hand, connections between excessive media consumption and impaired attention are reported.
The cell phone on the bed can disturb sleep
Digitalization is still in full swing. The smartphone boom, for example, has only been running for just over ten years – too short for large long-term studies. Nevertheless, people are increasingly using navigation apps instead of road maps, tablets instead of books, parking aids in the car and talking assistants at home. Connections often indicate each other, but whether an event is really the cause of change in the head often remains unclear at first.
In the UK, the health organization RSPH published a report on social networks and the health of young people. An important point: The mobile phone on the bed, checking so that you don’t miss anything at night can massively disturb sleep. One in five young people controls his networks at night. However, a lot of sleep is essential for building the young brain, as the study makers emphasize.
In the USA, psychologist Adrian F. Ward had exciting discoveries in two experiments he presented with colleagues in 2017: The proximity of his own smartphone alone is sufficient for people to perform worse when it comes to test questions. If the device is in another room, test persons think more and respond more correctly.
Ward concludes that a nearby mobile phone seizes us in such a way that resources are occupied in the brain. The working memory in the forehead flaps of the cerebral cortex, in the prefrontal cortex, for example. It can then do less in other fields. Among other things, we need it to understand sentences. It is also active in logical thinking.
to distract links
The experts from the Leibniz Institute for Knowledge Media in Tübingen also report that digital techniques leave traces in this important brain part. Housed in an imposing yellow clinker building, overlooking the medieval city center, around 90 IWM scientists explore how computers, tablets and the Internet can improve learning and teaching. Similar to the Magdeburgers, they also use eye tracking and EEG hoods.
“Digital media are neither good nor evil per se,”
clarifies psychology professor Ulrike Cress, 53, director of the institute. “They have certain qualities that influence thinking. We analyze how we make better use of media to facilitate learning processes. And how we avoid negative effects, such as – related to the Internet – the overload of the brain with too much information.”
Working group leader Peter Gerjets has an example on the keyword overload ready: “Reading and learning on the Internet is different from in the book,” says the 54-year-old. “This is because digital texts contain different functionalities than analog, printed texts.”
Basically, reading, unlike seeing and speaking, is not biologically innate, but learned. This means that the brain only creates the wide reading streets, the network connections of the cells. Whereby a person performs at high performance while reading: The brain must form connections at lightning speed, suppress nonsensical word meanings and much more.
In experiments, the Tübingeners let their test persons use Wikipedia-like texts, which contained links to click on, for learning. And in comparison, texts without links. The result: Left means distraction. If you look at the same word when it is marked as a link, the pupil becomes measurably larger, an indicator of cognitive stress. The brain starts, namely the working memory. This apparently requires resources that are also important for learning. The learning outcome can decrease.
Professor Gerjets adds, “The intriguing part is: Links distract even if they are not opened – just because they are present.” “Even if we tell test persons not to click on the links, but only focus on their learning goal, we can show that learning performance decreases.” The explanation: The link can trigger an impulse in the head, the desire to jump to the new website. The brain has to suppress it. “And suppression also burdens the working memory.”
Distraction, suppression of impulses, learning – everything demands its share of limited resources. What exactly is the connection and how does it be reflected in the head in the long term? Peter Gerjets’ answer: You have to continue researching.
“No arguments against a medium itself”
The experts suspect similar reactions of excessive demands if you want to find out about complex, opinion-heavy topics on the Internet. “Think about the topic of vaccination protection, what is buzzing through the net, including fake news,” says psychologist Gerjets. You can find a lot of information. But, and that would be a mammoth job, you would have to check and compare the sources for credibility – also a task for working memory.
“Then the brain switches to a stop mode at some point.” In Internet research, only the first few links are often called up – then they are canceled.
Despite such alarm signals, the family father has no concerns about promoting his own child in language acquisition via app. And both, he and IWM Director Cress, agree: “Overstrain and distraction potential are not arguments against a medium itself, but against uncontrolled use.”
Intensive reading suddenly becomes a stress
Maryanne Wolf’s analysis sounds more drastic. The cognitive and literary scholar from Los Angeles has fully specialized in reading. More precisely, on differences between paper and screen. It takes up experiences that many people know: If you regularly read on the screen for hours, it is often harder than before to master long distances concentrated on paper. Intensive reading suddenly becomes a stress.
Book author Wolf (“Fast reading, slow reading”) analyzes that you usually cough digitally over large parts. If you tap the text on keywords, fly over the restFast superficial scanning.
Paper encourages profound immersion in writing.
Accordingly, lengthier information texts from books and paper are better recalled than those from the net.
Wolf argues that new digital reading habits may train the brain to think flatly and impatiently.
She sees the danger that people will lose some of their ability to analyze complex questions. A risk also for thinking along in politics, for elections and democracy. But proven, Wolf admits, that is not yet.
“Learn new skills, lose others”
The “Stavanger Declaration” from the beginning of 2019 aims in a similarly admonishing direction. Maryanne Wolf has signed it, just like Yvonne Kammerer from the Tübingen IWM.It urges more than 130 professionals to support analog reading. . At the same time, pupils and students should learn to read on the screen in an understanding-oriented manner. And they appeal: Keep researching on these topics!
“There are indicators that the digital reading of factual materials is unfavourable compared to the analog – not so without time pressure,” explains 37-year-old Kammerer.
“I think we are at a critical point,” warns US author Wolf. Blind trust in technology is a mistake. “We should not move forward as fast as before when switching to digital reading. We should take the time to explore the advantages of digital media and see how we avoid the disadvantages.”
Braunschweig professor Martin Korte also speaks of a “transitional state”. The 54-year-old neurobiologist may not be considered a pessimist. Mobile phones and tablets did not make young people per se dumber than their parents – be it two-year-old Henriette or today’s teenagers. The brain has an old basic structure.
“We don’t have a Twitter brain, and we don’t have a Facebook brain either. “We have the brains of a legion of Stone Age cave dwellers,” he argues. “This will certainly not change so quickly. We will certainly learn certain new techniques and skills and lose others.”