**This piece was originally posted October 7, 2009, under the title ADHD-TV. I felt it was worthy of a re-post. Interesting, but when I posted this originally, I was met with a few mildly contradictory comments from friends, etc. Well, now, more and more doctors, such as psychiatrists, brain scientists, and psychologists are agreeing more and more: TV and video gaming, if started early in life CAUSES ADD/ADHD in kids that [likely] would not have developed it, as well as solidifying it in those born with the predisposition. The advent of television began the slow–no, wait…NOT so slow–decline of children’s [general] ability to pay attention to formal education and ordinary life. It’s a FACT. Please read on, and follow this link for a very informative article: http://www.whitedot.org/issue/iss_story.asp?slug=ADHD%20Toddlers
Broadcast media, aka, television is responsible for ADHD and ADD. You read that right. The neurological disorders [as they’re not psychiatric] known as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] and attention deficit disorder [ADD] have been implicated by numerous scientists and psychiatrists as being at the heart of these attention disorders, which are more prevalent than any of us deemed likely in recent, past years.
Now before you write me off as some wacko, you have to know my statement above is based on findings in psychiatry and “brain science” that is only coming to light. ADHD/ADD—and perhaps many other “learning” disorders were [largely and most likely] caused or came about with the advent of television and other broadcast media [but most especially television].
And gaming, along with the Internet, is only making things worse. The rapid changes of scenery and stimuli found in most television programming, and now even more so with computer and video gaming, “train” the brain to become increasingly unable—or unwilling—to tolerate the far less exciting and slower-moving pace of real life, creating attention deficit in those most exposed.
What makes me say such a “loony” thing?
Well, I recently finished reading Dr. Norman Doidge’s book, “The Brain That Changes Itself,” and the eye-opening findings “rogue” scientists have been asserting about brain plasticity [the brain’s ability/nature for extraordinary change—continually, throughout life…yes…even into old age] for generations; findings, which are only more recently being accepted in their accuracy by the scientific community.
In generations past the scientific community has said the human brain is “hardwired” in its functions; specific segments or lobes of the brain “handled” certain tasks and that was “just the way it was.” For hundreds of years, the brain was said to be unchanging after adolescence had passed.
But the fact of the matter is the scientific community, in this regard, has been extraordinarily WRONG for all of these many generations. The human brain, as proven many times over by brilliant scientists, and as mentioned in “The Brain That Changes Itself,” is ever in a constant “state” of change and we can actually change our own brains, physiologically, with our thoughts and by those external stimuli to which we—or someone else chooses—to subject us [our brains] to.
I highly recommend this book to everyone—that’s right everyone, except for, perhaps, young children and those under high school age—to read, study, and understand regarding just how susceptible our brains are to what we are exposed to in life, particularly as children, over long periods of time. I would advise all new parents to read, if not study, this book and seriously ponder on exactly how they wish to [hopefully, positively] influence their children’s minds; the sooner/the younger, the better.
“The Brain That Changes Itself” explores how this knowledge of brain plasticity is being used to cure autism, restore paralyzed body parts after years of immobility due to stroke, turn “learning disabled” people into above average thinkers, and even cause people who are blind to see…via receptors in their tongues! That’s no joke. Buy and read the book, or follow the link leading to the documentary about the book, and see for your self.
Even the religious or spiritual person, such as myself [I’m LDS, aka “Mormon”] can gain a greater appreciation, in his or her given faith, of God’s unfathomable power and glory with the markedly increased understanding of how our brains work after reading this most extraordinary book. I know I did.
One of the most valuable realizations I gleaned from the information presented in this very readable book is the fact we never know what drives people to behave or think the way they do, and [that] being judgmental of people is, at best, precarious ground to stand on. For me, as a Christian [yes, Mormon’s are Christian], it gives greater meaning to the council Christ gave when He said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
But I’m not here to turn this into a religious or even spiritually related post.
Personally, perhaps the most relevant of findings passed along by the numerous brain scientists and psychiatrists Dr. Doidge encountered during his research and writing of “The Brain That Changes Itself” are found in Appendix 1, regarding the effects the media, mainly television, began to have on the brain and—ultimately—our society. It has become rather apparent to these scientists initial, reported cases of “hyperactivity” and “learning disorders” coincide with the introduction of broadcast media (namely television) into the American mainstream.
Now…this is scientifically documented, folks, not just my personal hypothesis or some leap I’ve made.
Time for some proof? Well check this out.
In “The Brain That Changes Itself”, Dr. Doidge recounts:
“…a recent study of more than twenty-six hundred toddlers…[exposed] to early exposure to television between the ages of one and three correlates with paying attention and controlling impulses later in childhood.”
The study showed for every hour of TV watched each day, the toddlers’ chances of developing ‘serious attentional difficulties at age seven’ jumped by 10%!! And approximately twenty years after the explosion of television into American society, teachers began to notice students started to show increased restlessness and trouble in paying attention.
Educator/author, Jane Healy, recorded in her book Endangered Minds, when those children, who were products of the proliferative media and television boom, finally reached college, their professors complained of having to “dumb down” courses with each successive new year, as the students grew increasingly less capable of paying attention, and more intimidated by reading [the printed word] for any length of time. All the while, these developing problems were eclipsed or ignored as society’s hunger for more computers, greater RAM, and faster processors…all of which nurtured this growing brain malady…burgeoned.
Harvard psychiatrist, Edward Hallowell, who is an expert on attention deficit disorder (ADD), has linked the flourishing of attention deficit mannerisms to the electronic media. Psychiatric brain genius, Michael Merzenich [“mertz-EN-ich”] had this to say about the brain-shaping role the Internet and media have in our brains’ lives:
“The Internet is just one of those things that contemporary humans can spend millions of ‘practice’ events at, that the average human a thousand years ago had absolutely no exposure to. Our brains are massively remodeled by this exposure…by television, by video games, by modern electronics….”
Without taking this post way too long, suffice it to say numerous other brain scientists who are expert on brain plasticity acknowledge the powerful changes prolonged exposure to these mediums have on the human brain, but most especially on the brains of children—especially those who may have inherited their temperament to ADHD or ADD from their parents. Experts agree: video games are among the most powerful in molding the brain to these dispositions.
Experiments clearly show the human brain puts out what is called the “reward neurotransmitter”, dopamine [which is also triggered by addictive drugs] during gaming. Is it any wonder people who are addicted to computer games [or Internet porn, for that matter], show all the other signs historically associated with other chemical addictions?
• Cravings when forced to stop.
• Neglect of other responsibilities or activities.
• Euphoria while gaming.
• Propensity to deny or downplay their actual predilection.
It’s the fast-paced action and scene cuts, according to experts, found in TV, video games, music videos, etc, [all of which occur at much faster rates of speed than real life] that train the brain, actually altering our brain structure, resulting in a general, overall boredom with reality!
A real quick comment on the differences between ADHD/ADD in children versus adults: there are some significant differences, which I’m aware of, but won’t go into now, for those who want to tout the benefits of diet and vitamins that have “worked” to “cure” their kids’ ADD, and recommend such for adults. Bottom line: the two cannot be compared. Those kids whose ADD has been identified early on, during childhood, very often times will grow out of the natural tendency, with professional attention to the problem. Adults who suffer from adult ADHD or ADD will require significantly different approaches to overcome—we can’t compare kids and grownups, folks!
Some traumatic experiences in early childhood can also have a huge bearing on a person’s predisposition toward ADHD; even the way such individuals were cared for after the trauma.
A CARING WARNING: If you think ADHD and ADD aren’t real, or [that] these terms are a bunch of “hooey” or “fancy talk” for “kids just being kids”, or that scientists don’t really know if these things are real or imagined, or if you believe “it’s all just a matter of mind over matter…[or]…a matter of choice,” you’re simply ignorant to the reality. People who suffer from these disorders, in their varying degrees of severity, are often tormented by very real, chemical compulsions that are almost impossible to control without help and counseling.
There are afflictions that affect organs without so much as altering the appearance of the afflicted organ. A pancreas with diabetes, if you were to cut it out and place it on a table next to a healthy pancreas, wouldn’t look any different than a non-diabetic one. A liver with sclerosis is radically different in appearance than a healthy liver. These afflictions of the brain—ADHD and ADD—are REAL–not imagined–physiological afflictions. There ARE disorders health experts know very little about. This is one that has much in the way of laboratory evidence to squelch naysayers and doubters.
The science behind brain plasticity and how our brains are constantly changing has been asserted by many forward thinking scientists since as far back as Sigmund Freud, but has been strongly opposed for many generations by closed minds. But fortunately minds are opening up…the mysteries and wonders of the human brain are, only now, just barely beginning to be revealed.
If you are one of the skeptical ones, you’re invited to open your mind and consider what you’ve long believed may very well have been based on false or incomplete information. Just think about those who used to insist the world was flat instead of globular.
These comments have been provided by CopyPASSION.com to breed greater awareness, and to generate open mindedness–as well as dialogue–about these less-than-benign disorders, which are permeating our society and undermining its future.