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← Serious claims belong in a serious scientific paper

Chris Roberts's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Chris Roberts

Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE (born 1 October 1950) is a British scientist, writer, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords. Greenfield, whose specialty is the physiology of the brain, has worked to research and bring attention to Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Greenfield is Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford. On 1 February 2006, she was installed as Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Until 8 January 2010, she was director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, but following a review, she was made redundant.

Internet Addiction Disorder and controversy

Greenfield has expressed concerns that modern technology, and in particular social networking sites, may have a negative impact on child development. In an August 2011 interview with New Scientist, Greenfield cited a June 2011 study published in PLoS ONE as evidence for her claims. In the study, the authors investigated changes in the microstructures of major fiber pathways in the brain of 18 adolescents. Gray matter atrophy and fractional anisotropy to some white matter portions of the brain were found to have a significant correlation with the duration of internet addiction disorder (IAD). The authors noted similarities between the structural changes from IAD and those from substance abuse studies, suggesting that the mechanism for both may be similar. The authors concluded that the structural changes they found "probably contributed to chronic dysfunction in subjects with IAD." In this respect, she has been criticised by Ben Goldacre for claiming that technology has adverse effects on the human brain, without having undertaken any research or properly evaluating available evidence. Goldacre called on her to "[formally] write up her concerns about computers damaging children's brains", to which she replied that he is "like the people who denied that smoking caused cancer". More recently Mr Goldacre replied that "A scientist with enduring concerns about a serious widespread risk would normally set out their concerns clearly, to other scientists, in a scientific paper"

source: Wikipedia

You think that digital technology is having an impact on our brains. How do you respond to those who say there's no evidence for this?

When people say there is no evidence, you can turn that back and say, what kind of evidence would you imagine there would be? Are we going to have to wait for 20 years and see that people are different from previous generations? Sometimes you can't just go into a lab and get the evidence overnight. I think there are enough pointers that we should be talking about this rather than stressing about not being able to replicate things in a lab instantly.

So what evidence is there?

There is lots of evidence, for example, the recent paper "Microstructure abnormalities in adolescents with internet addiction disorder" in the journal PLoS One. We know the human brain can change and the environment can change it.

New Scientist

From the actual article

Conclusions

Our results suggested that long-term internet addiction would result in brain structural alterations, which probably contributed to chronic dysfunction in subjects with IAD. The current study may shed further light on the potential brain effects of IAD.

PLos ONE

It would appear that someone has done research on this, I suspect it is within her field of expertise. One paper does not make a revelation however, and I think it is justified that she is asked to back up her claims with evidence - and one paper with a suspected link is no where near enough.

And shouting down your critics is no way for a respected member of the scientific community to behave, lets leave that to the creationists.

Shame on you, Prof Greenfield.

Sun, 23 Oct 2011 18:52:27 UTC | #883452