Sunday, July 24, 2016

Books vs. TV: does it matter for your brain?

Apparently yes, and quite a bit, according to a recent research:

Researchers have devoted innumerable hours to studying how TV affects our brains differently than reading. 
[...] The more a child watched television or was exposed to television, even if it was playing in the background, the weaker their understanding of their parents’ mental state. Ultimately, if the television was on in the vicinity of the child, it impaired their theory of mind, which is defined as the ability to recognize their own and another person’s beliefs, intents, desires, and knowledge. 
"Children with more developed theories of mind are better able to participate in social relationships,” said the study’s lead researcher Amy Nathanson, a communications professor at Ohio State University, in a statement. “These children can engage in more sensitive, cooperative interactions with other children and are less likely to resort to aggression as a means of achieving goals." 
A more recent study from 2015, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, revealed watching too much TV could actually alter the composition of the human brain.  When researchers studied 276 children between the ages of 5 and 18, they discovered the more time spent in front of the TV, the thicker the frontal lobe region of their brains developed. It’s the same area that is known to lower language processing and communication, which researchers suspect is also why they had a lower verbal IQ. But that wasn’t all; the hypothalamus, septum, sensory motor region, and visual cortex were all enlarged — these are where emotional responses, arousal, aggression, and vision are processed. 
It may be why increased TV exposure for children under the age of three is linked to delayed language acquisition, which sets them up for years of playing catch up in school. When it comes to school, children who sit in front of the TV for two or more hours a day are more likely to have greater psychological difficulties, which include hyperactivity, emotional and behavioral problems, and social conflicts with peers in the classroom. 
[...] But aside from pleasure and practicality, reading strengthens the neural pathways like any muscle in your body. Even at a young age, children who are read to by their parents develop five enhanced reading skills, which include an advanced vocabulary, word recognition in spoken words, ability to connect written letters to spoken sounds, reading comprehension, and the fluency to read text accurately and quickly. 
Despite the benefits, it’s estimated that 42 percent of college graduates will never pick up another book after they earn their degrees. But just because their brains are technically finished developing doesn’t mean they don’t need to read any more.  A study, conducted by a team of researchers from Emory University, revealed that books can stimulate changes in how the brain is connected, which causes the reader to have lingering feelings from the story, such as a heightened sense of excitement from reading a page-turner. 
[...] “The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist, ” Berns explained. “We call that a ‘shadow activity,’ almost like a muscle memory.” 
Researchers believe this prolonged and measurable brain boost, which was found in the region associated with language and sensory motor skills, could improve brain connectivity over time. It brings using books as an escape to a whole new level.
From Raw Story.

This cartoon seemed apropos:

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