Does social media and gaming addiction cause brain damage? Science says it does and the evidence is terrifying. According to recent neuroimaging research, too much screen time causes structural and functional damage in areas of the brain responsible for emotional processing, attention, decision making, and cognitive control.
Your brain is made up of grey and white matter. Grey matter is responsible for processing information. Studies show that exposing the brain to continuous stimuli from screens causes grey matter to atrophy or shrink. This loss in volume particularly affects the frontal lobe which is responsible for planning, organizing, and prioritizing. The striatum which takes care of suppressing socially unacceptable impulses also suffers a loss in volume.
Too much screen time also damages the insula which is crucial for experiencing empathy and compassion. In young people or children, too much exposure to screens might cause these areas to remain underdeveloped. Experts believe that this could lead to an increase in violent behavior and affect a young person’s ability to have meaningful personal relationships.
Continuous exposure to screens also affects white matter, the tissue in the brain responsible for sending nerve signals to grey matter. In a healthy brain, white matter serves as the communication portal or channel, sending messages between the right and left hemispheres and to higher and lower brain centers. These are all crucial for human survival. Too much screen time causes these connections to slow down or become erratic.
What this means is that people who use screens too much might be at risk of reduced cognitive functioning which will harm things like overall wellbeing, academic or career success, and personal relationships. Exposing the brain to stimuli like social media or video games also impairs dopamine function which is responsible for feeling pleasure. This means that the more screen time you clock in, the more you want to keep doing it. Gaming, Internet addiction, and social media addiction will keep activating the brain’s reward system. In children, teens, or young adults, who generally do not have a fully developed self-control system, this research takes on an even more sinister role. It results in the sort of brain damage observed in addicts and can negatively impact daily life.