Susan Greenfield, an English pharmacologist, is quoted by the New York times as saying:

My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.


I will also cite the newspaper as saying:

Is social networking killing you? Well, no, probably not. Or at least, not literally. But two British scientists have recently suggested that spending all day, and — admit it — much of the night networking on a computer might in fact be bad for your body and your brain.

Normally, I would simply roll my eyes, but, given the origin I'd like to see some studies: Is this health threat supported by peer-reviewed studies or not?

  • 5
    This isn't exactly a new take on the 'new shiny thing will turn our minds to mush' story.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 16:05
  • @RoryAlsop: Please see my edit: I think the question is interesting because the question comes from a scientist.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 16:07
  • 1
    It kind of sounds like it's saying "addictions are bad for you." Which isn't much of a news flash :)
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 9, 2011 at 18:42
  • 1
    Even the edit underplays her credentials: Greenfield is Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology, a university chancellor and a former director of the Royal Institution - i.e. someone who should understand the important of peer-reviewed studies. (She is also a Peer and a member of the House of Lords, but I am, alas, too cynical to suggest that makes her more likely to be careful what she says.)
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 8:23
  • 2
    I’m confused – is this a question about healthy treats or health threats? ;-) Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 16:28

1 Answer 1


No, this health threat is not supported by peer-review studies.

Noted skeptic, journalist, GP and researcher, Dr Ben Goldacre has complained in The Guardian that Prof Greenfield's claims have not been published anywhere in a way where they can receive proper scientific scrutiny. [Emphasis mine.]

This week Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of pharmacology at Oxford, apparently announced that computer games are causing dementia in children.


Two months ago the same professor linked internet use with the rise in autism diagnoses (not for the first time), then pulled back when autism charities and an Oxford professor of psychology raised concerns.


But I have one, humble question: why, in over 5 years of appearing in the media raising these grave worries, has Professor Greenfield of Oxford University never simply published the claims in an academic paper?


I think these serious scientific concerns belong, at least once, in a clear scientific paper.

(I offer Goldacre's column as evidence that it isn't just me who has failed to find evidence, but that someone with proven research skills has published that there is no such evidence.)


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .