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Brain structures differ among media multitaskers, study finds

Multitaskers who report using a variety of media devices at one time have significantly different brain structures than those who report using only one device at a time, a new study found.

Researchers at the University of Sussex in England performed fMRI brain scans on 75 adults to look at their gray matter. The participants also answered a questionnaire on their media use including cellphones, computers, and television.

Those who said they multitask with more than one media had less dense gray matter in the region of the brain that controls executive function compared to those who say they only use one electronic device occasionally, the study found.


Lower gray matter density in the particular region of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex may impair a person’s memory as well as their ability to control emotions, according to the researchers.

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BOTTOM LINE: The brains of multitaskers look significantly different from those who commit to only one task.

CAUTIONS: The study partially relied on self-report of media use so the findings may not be accurate. The study does not suggest a cause and effect relationship between multitasking and gray matter density.


Talk therapy better than medication to treat social anxiety


Talk therapy may be a better long-term treatment for social anxiety disorder than taking antidepressants, according to a review of studies by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Researchers analyzed 101 studies that included more than 13,000 participants with severe social anxiety and that compared the effectiveness of different types of medications and a form of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy to treat the disorder.

Cognitive behavioral therapy was the most effective treatment for the disorder, the researchers found. Unlike taking medications, the effects of the therapy lasted even after therapy had stopped.

There was no evidence that combining medication and talk therapy was more effective in treating the disorder than talk therapy alone.

Often, patients turn to medication because they do not have access to trained therapists, the researchers wrote. The findings suggest that medication should only be considered a secondary method to treat symptoms of the disorder.


BOTTOM LINE: Talk therapy may be a better long-term treatment for social anxiety disorder than taking antidepressants.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on previous research and did not follow a unique cohort to test the long-term effects of talk therapy versus medication.

WHERE TO FIND IT: The Lancet Psychiatry, Sept. 26

Lara Salahi