In this August 2015 Psychology Today blog article, a child psychiatrist and author, Dr Victoria Dunckley makes a number of claims about how screen time is causing symptoms of mental health problems.

I am interested in a large number of her claims, but to keep this answerable, I am going to focus on this subsection:

  1. Screen time desensitizes the brain’s reward system.

Many children are “hooked” on electronics, and in fact gaming releases so much dopamine—the “feel-good” chemical—that on a brain scan it looks the same as cocaine use. But when reward pathways are overused, they become less sensitive, and more and more stimulation is needed to experience pleasure. Meanwhile, dopamine is also critical for focus and motivation, so needless to say, even small changes in dopamine sensitivity can wreak havoc on how well a child feels and functions.

Does playing electronic games release enough dopamine to interfere with how well a child feels and functions at other times?

  • Neurology is the right term for hormone responses in the brain, right?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 24, 2016 at 2:28
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    Everything children do nowadays "looks the same as cocaine use" on a brain scan. Video games... social networking... too much sugar... cocaine... Jun 24, 2016 at 13:04
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    How do they know it looks the same as cocaine? Have they been giving children cocaine and then scanning them? Jun 24, 2016 at 13:19
  • @PointlessSpike: I suspect it was rhetorical, but I assume by studying rats, dogs and maybe adult human brains on cocaine, and applying the result to children by analogy.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 24, 2016 at 15:18
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    @gnometorule: You are describing the famous Rat Park experiments: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park - Their reproducibility has been called into question (but I have no view on which side is right).
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 27, 2016 at 3:50


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