Two UK tabloids – The Sun and The Daily Mail – are highlighting comments from a neuroscientist who claims that video games can cause dementia in children. Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield told a gathering at the science centre (part of the Sherbourne Girls' School) in Dorset this week that online gaming and activities such as Facebook can "disable connections in the brain" – and in extreme circumstances – cause dementia in children. She also said that, on average, children spend around 2,000 hours a year either playing games or doing other things online.
"Screen technologies cause high arousal which in turn activates the brain system's underlying addiction," she said. "This results in the attraction of yet more screen-based activity."
She went on to say that such activity could cause connections in the brain to be "temporarily disabled", or even "inactivated permanently by degeneration — ie. dementia." Other symptoms she mentioned included shortened attention spans and a tendency for reckless behavior.
She also emphasized that children need to spend more time outside and less time on the Internet or playing games.
Baroness Greenfield is Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology (the study of drugs that act on the synapses) at Lincoln College in Oxford, as well as a member of the House of Lords.
While her comments make great fodder for the UK tabloids, both reports do not mention any specific research cited by Greenfield during her speech. We doubt any such research exists, because her comments are simply over the top.