Neuroscience: Is Facebook Damaging To The Human Brain?

In a technology-driven world, can Facebook negatively affect Cognition?

British Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, is one of many leading scientists who have suggested negative effects of social media to brain development.  However, she has caused some controversy by suggesting the rise in the use of internet and social media may be related to the rise in Autism.

I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That’s all. Establishing a causal relationship is very hard but there are trends out there that we must think about.


However, this has led to the Oxford Neuroscientist Dorothy Bishop of BishopBlog writing an Open Letter asking her to “please, please, stop talking about autism”. Twitter has also backlashed at Greenfield’s comments with such tweets as,

“I point to the rise of Rebecca Black and the Greek sovereign debt crisis, that is all”.

Satirically, Neuro Skeptic has pointed out that it is in fact, Susan Greenfield that has caused this trend.

The graph above shows the total number of scientific citations for Susan Greenfield’s papers, over time. This is as good a measure as any of the influence Greenfield has had over our culture.

The trend is obvious, the growth is dramatic, and the correlation with the modern autism epidemic is undeniable.


OK but seriously. In her defence, she has been misquoted many times. In an Interview with New Scientist, Greenfield stated that:

“I didn’t say, and I’ve been misquoted universally, that [technology] rots the brain and it’s bad, I’ve never given value judgements, ever.

Phew. Anyway, we should all understand that this is all speculation on correlation. No research was based on her claims. Though, I would happily like to see research done on this subject as Susan has suggested. If found to be correct, this could change how the Internet operates.



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