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TV binges really do shrink your brain if you’re middle-aged

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TV binges really do shrink your brain in middle age: how an extra hour of screen time per day for 30- to 50-year-olds is linked to 0.5% less gray matter

  • People who watched TV for more than two hours a day had less gray matter
  • The average Briton spent five hours and forty minutes a day watching TV or videos in 2020
  • Each additional hour of TV was linked to a 0.5 percent reduction in gray matter










TV is often accused of making us stupid, but the brains of middle-aged viewers who binge watch can actually shrink.

US researchers who studied scans of those who spent more than two hours a day in front of their television found lower amounts of gray matter — typically indicative of poorer brain performance.

It’s certainly bad news for UK TV fans who spend a lot of time watching popular shows like Gogglebox.

US researchers studying scans of those who spent more than two hours a day in front of their television found lower amounts of gray matter

Ofcom revealed last month that in 2020 the average Briton would watch TV or online videos for five hours and 40 minutes a day.

According to US research, every extra hour of average daily TV time between the ages of 30 and 50 was linked to a 0.5 percent reduction in gray matter volume.

Study leader Dr. Ryan Dougherty, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said, “In the context of cognitive and brain health, not all sedentary behaviors are created equal.

‘Nonstimulative sedentary activities, such as television viewing, are associated with a greater risk of developing cognitive impairment, while cognitively stimulating sedentary activities (e.g., reading, computer and board games) are associated with preservation of cognition and reduced likelihood of dementia.’

His team examined the relationship between gray matter volume and the viewing behavior of 599 adults from four major U.S. cities between 1990 and 2011.

Volunteers were asked about their viewing habits and were interviewed every five years. Over the past two decades, participants watched an average of two and a half hours of TV per day.

Ofcom revealed last month that the average Briton will watch TV or online videos for five hours and 40 minutes every day in 2020.

Ofcom revealed last month that the average Briton will watch TV or online videos for five hours and 40 minutes every day in 2020.

MRI scans found reduced long-term viewing volume in the frontal cortex and entorhinal cortex – followed by total gray matter volume in middle age.

“As brain atrophy becomes apparent in middle age, our findings raise the question of whether reducing television viewing (or other non-sedentary behaviors) could preserve total gray matter volume and protect against future cognitive decline,” wrote Dr. Dougherty in a paper published in the scientific journal Brain Imaging and Behavior.

“Our findings suggest that television viewing, independent of physical activity, plays a role in brain, cognitive and overall health.”

He said the results underlined the need to identify behaviors, such as box-set binge eating, that can be changed before brain damage is done.

“This is an important finding because it is now widely believed that the neurobiology of dementia, including brain atrophy, begins during middle age, a period in which adaptable behaviors, such as excessive TV viewing, can be targeted and reduced,” he said.

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