If you’re watching TV or on your phone while reading this, your brain might be shrinking, according to a new study published on Thursday.
The study, produced by researchers at the University of Sussex suggests that men and women who multi tasked using technology had less ‘grey matter’ in the part of the brain that controls individual processes.
According to the study produced by the Sackler Centre for Conciousness, people frequently switching between devices could seriously damage the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) which is responsible for cognitive and emotional control functions.
The research, which tested 75 people using magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that people who multitasked with electronic devices were more at risk of emotional instability, as grey matter would depreciate in areas of the brain that controlled emotional impulses, reasoning and empathy.
The volunteers were also asked questions about how they used their devices, and the environments in which they used them in.
“Our study was the first to reveal links between media multi-tasking and brain structure.” said Kepkee Loh, a neuroscientist based at the university, though she added that “the exact mechanisms of these changes are still unclear,”.
She also said that using more than one device at the same time, on a regular basis, could cause permanent structural changes to the brain, and that people with a smaller ACC were more ‘susceptible to multitasking situations due to weaker ability in cognitive control or socio-emotional regulation’.
While the study adds to a growing body of research linking the use of technology to negative emotional reactions, other studies have shown that technology could be good for the brain, as it could make it work faster and more effectively.
Other studies have linked the use of technology to anxiety and depression, although there remains little consensus on the issue by the scientific community.