21 May 2021

Turn off the zomboyashchik!

Watching TV worsened cognitive functions

Maria Krivochenko, Naked Science

A team of scientists conducted three studies and found out how prolonged TV watching and a sedentary lifestyle affect a person's cognitive abilities. The results of the work will be presented at the conference of the American Cardiological Association of Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health (Moderate-to-high TV viewing in midlife linked to later cognitive and brain health decline).

More than 10 thousand respondents were selected for the first study. All participants told how much time they spend watching TV. Scientists interviewed volunteers five times – every few years.

The results showed that people who watch TV a moderate amount of time or often suffer from a more severe cognitive decline – by 6.9 percent – over 15 years. At the same time, the variety of TV shows did not affect the condition of the participants, as did physical activity: sports did not improve cognitive functions and did not reduce the risk of dementia.

The second study included 1,601 elderly people. They were also asked once every few years how much time they spent watching TV. During the last survey, the participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using brain MRI, the researchers examined several structural markers of the brain, including the volume of deep gray matter of each participant.

As the results showed, TV fans have a lower level of gray matter, which indicates a deterioration in the state of the brain. The link between the love of watching TV shows and the amount of gray matter was stronger if, in middle age, the volunteers spent more time in front of the TV. Again, it turned out that the results are not affected by an active lifestyle.

A third study also found a link between watching TV and the amount of gray matter in the brain. In it, scientists evaluated the data from the study of the Risk of coronary artery development in young adults, in total they studied more than five thousand people. Then they had an MRI. It turned out that watching TV in early and middle age is associated with a smaller volume of gray matter. And the increase in viewing time led to a reduction in the volume of gray matter by about 0.5 percent – similar to the annual level of atrophy.

Consequently, three studies have confirmed that frequent TV viewing is associated with the development of cognitive impairment. Scientists believe that this work is especially important now because people spend more time in front of the TV because of the pandemic.

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