© 2019 SourceMedia. All rights reserved.

NIH study probes impact of heavy screen time on young brains

(Bloomberg) --Brain scans of adolescents who are heavy users of smartphones, tablets and video games look different from those of less active screen users, preliminary results from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes of Health show, according to a report on Sunday by “60 Minutes.”

That’s the finding of the first batch of scans of 4,500 nine- to 10-year-olds. Scientists will follow those children and thousands more for a decade to see how childhood experiences, including the use of digital devices, affect their brains, emotional development and mental health.

In the first round of testing, the scans of children who reported daily screen usage of more than seven hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world.

screen time.jpg
A second grader works on an Apple Inc. iPad as part of her classroom work at Park Lane Elementary school, in the Canyons School District, in Sandy, Utah, U.S. on Monday, May 20, 2013. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

NIH study director Gaya Dowling cautioned against drawing a conclusion from the early findings.

“We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time. We don’t know if it’s a bad thing,” Dowling said in Sunday’s broadcast on CBS. “It won’t be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we’re seeing in this single snapshot.”

Early results from the $300 million study, called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), have determined that children who spend more than two hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests. A major data release is scheduled for early 2019.

Teenagers now spend an average of 4 1/2 hours a day on their mobile phones, “60 Minutes” reported.