What Social Media Does to Your Brain
The average person spends more than 3 hours on their phone each day, of which around 2 and a half hours are on social media. While this may seem like a harmless hobby, research shows that doing anything repeatedly for an extended period of time can cause physiological changes in the brain. This begs the […]

The average person spends more than 3 hours on their phone each day, of which around 2 and a half hours are on social media. While this may seem like a harmless hobby, research shows that doing anything repeatedly for an extended period of time can cause physiological changes in the brain. This begs the question, what is social media actually doing to our brains?

Attention changes

Social media has the ability to both capture and disperse your attention. With a simple "refresh", constant new information is at your fingertips. Through a process called "variable ratio reinforcement," you are constantly excited and rewarded for seeing new posts.

Studies show that this ability to capture your attention has a detrimental effect on your brain. Two and a half hours of social media is about the same time it would take to get to New York City from Philadelphia, run a half marathon, or watch one of the Harry potter movies. While the thought of seeing Harry, Ron, and Hermione every day might seem like a good thing to you, what you do every day can change the structure of your brain and the way it processes information.

Heavy users of social media do less well on cognitive tests, especially those that examine their attention and ability to multitask. Compared to moderate to light social media users, heavy users have to put in more effort to stay focused in the face of distraction. Researchers hypothesize that since social media is easily accessible and competes for your attention with the promise of perpetual new content, heavy social media users become less able to ignore distraction in general. Not only does this lead to poorer cognitive performance, it reduces parts of the brain associated with maintaining attention. This brain's ability to change is called neuroplasticity, and it has a big effect on your attention and cognitive function.

VShangs in the reward paths

Beyond reducing your ability to maintain your focus on any selected topic, social media makes you addicted to your screens. It offers immediate rewards in the form of a release of dopamine (the hormone of happiness) whenever you post or receive a notification from the app. This constant barrage of superficial rewards makes your brain want more of what caused that dopamine release, which leads to social media addiction. Studies show brain scans of heavy social media users look a lot like those of drug addicts or gambling.

Changes to memory processes

Research also shows that heavy social media use is linked to memory deficits, especially in your transactive memory. This type of memory involves deciding what information is important enough to be stored in your brain and what information can be externalized.

The central feature of social media, sharing and storing your experiences, can actually alter which memories you keep and which ones you don't. In study, attendees were asked to record an experience using their notes or social media, and other groups were asked to just experience the event without recording it. At the end of the study, those who had recorded or shared the event performed worse and showed more memory deficit than those who experienced the event without recording it. Outsourcing an experience damaged participants' memories because their brains received the message that they did not need to keep information stored elsewhere. As a result, not only have individuals lost some memory of their initial experience, but they can also experience long-term deficits in the size and function of their brains.

Social media presents a myriad of positive aspects, including new friendships, career opportunities, exposure and connection to new cultures and movements, to name a few. However, science tells us how important it is to be aware of and guard against the negative impacts of social media because it literally shrinks your brain. Take-out meals? Despite how social media has been able to improve your life and no matter how much you enjoy carrying a mini dopamine dispenser, moderation is key.

If you would like to learn more about improving your own memory and brain function, please visit us at www.neurogrow.com.

This blog was written by Lizzie Lewis and edited by Dr Majid Fotuhi.


BrainHQ is your online headquarters for working out your brain. Think of it as a personal gym, where you exercise your memory, attention, brain speed, people skills, intelligence and navigation instead of your abs, delts, and quads. Just as our bodies require care and exercise over the course of life, so do our brains—especially as we age. BrainHQ provides the exercise your brain needs to be at its sharpest.

The BrainHQ brain-training program represents the culmination of 30 years of research in neurological technique and related medicine. It was designed by an international team of neuroscientists, led by Michael Merzenich—a professor emeritus in neurophysiology, member of the National Academy of Sciences, co-inventor of the cochlear implant, and Kavli Prize laureate.

Changing your brain takes some work—so while the BrainHQ exercises are sometimes fun, they can also be difficult. But they always give a useful, meaningful workout to your unique brain. Using a special algorithm, each exercise adapts in difficulty as you work so that you always train at the optimum level for you—where you are most likely to improve your résultat optimal.

It takes less than five minutes to do each BrainHQ level, so you can use it in tiny queues or long blocks, depending on your schedule. Plus you can use BrainHQ on almost any computer or mobile device, so you can take it on the go. If you want, you can set up personal training goals and have BrainHQ send you training reminders when you want them.

BrainHQ has 29 online exercises that work out attention, brain speed, memory, people skills, navigation, and intelligence. If you want, you can have BrainHQ tell you exactly which exercises to do, and in which order : the personalized trainer feature, designed by scientists, continually measures your résultat optimal and serves up the exercises that are right for you.. Or if you prefer, you can design your own program, choosing exercises and workouts that meet your personal interests, mood, and schedule.

More than 100 published scientific papers show the benefits of BrainHQ exercises and assessments. Most of these were independently conducted by scientists at respected universities, such as the University of California, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins. Of course, every study is conducted on a different group of people, and individual results vary. Click any benefit below to learn more about the studies behind the benefit.

From staplers to shelves to software, Demco supplies libraries with what they need to run. In 2015, they added BrainHQ to that mix. Through Demco, libraries can purchase BrainHQ to offer to their cardholders. People “check out” BrainHQ for free, like they would a book. Right now, it’s available in many public and military libraries across the U. S. —with more on the way.

Brain fitness has basic principles : variety and curiosity. When anything you do becomes deuxième nature, you need to make a change. If you can do the crossword puzzle in your sleep, it’s time for you to move on to a new challenge in order to get the best workout for your brain. Curiosity about the world around you, how it works and how you can understand it will keep your brain working fast and efficiently. Use the ideas below to help attain your quest for mental fitness.

Brain fitness programs and games are a wonderful way to tease and challenge your brain. Suduko, crosswords and electronic games can all improve your brain’s speed and memory. These games rely on logic, word skills, math and more. These games are also fun. 1

You’ll get benefit more by doing these games a little bit every day. Spend 15 minutes or so, not hours.

Daily meditation is perhaps the solo greatest thing you can do for your mind/body health. Meditation not only relaxes you, it gives your brain a workout. By creating a different mental state, you engage your brain in new and interesting ways while increasing your brain sport.

Your brain needs you to eat healthy fats. Focus on fish oils from wild salmon, nuts such as walnuts, seeds such as flax seed and olive oil. Eat more of these foods and less saturated fats. Eliminate transfats completely from your diet.

Stories are a way that we solidify memories, interpret events and share instants. Practice telling your stories, both new and old, so that they are interesting, compelling and fun. Some basic storytelling techniques will go a long way in keeping people’s interest both in you and in what you have to say.

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