News Ltd. causes brain damage

Janet Albrechtson published a piece on her News Ltd blog yesterday rehashing old claims that video games and social networking are giving children brain damage.

The claim is that children’s brains are being “rewired” when they use computers. This claim seems kind of convincing when Albrechtson quotes a “widely published neuroscientist”, Baroness Susan Greenfield (pictured above).

It is bewildering how the opinions of a neuroscientist could be of any import when that neuroscientist admits that there is no neuroscientific evidence for her claims.

Albrechtson think it important to point out the following about Greenfield.

The 57-year-old baroness (she was appointed to the House of Lords under Tony Blair’s reforms in 1998 for her eminence in science) is a thin, attractive blonde who has a knack for making connections between the highfalutin world of brain cells and the home, the classroom and youth culture.

Regardless of her physical appearance, it is true that the baroness has the knack albrechtson speaks of. Another, less polite way of explaining this ability is the way that Ben Goldacre did.

It is my view that Professor Greenfield has been abusing her position as a professor, and head of the Royal Institution, for many years now, using these roles to give weight to her speculations and prejudices in a way that is entirely inappropriate. Sometimes it’s cannabis.

Greenfield’s role is to promote the public’s understanding of science. But, as Goldacre says,  “repeatedly she appears in the media making wild headline-grabbing claims, without evidence, all the while telling us repeatedly that she is a scientist.”

I highly recommend Ben Goldacre’s post about this issue as well as the debate he had with Dr Aric Sigman.

One point of irony is hard to miss in Albrechtson’s piece. Quoting Greenfield again, she makes a big deal out of what she says is the “look at me” generation that facebook is creating.

Social networking is giving rise to a “look at me” generation… seeking “constant reassurance; that you are listened to, recognised and important”… “It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result inbrains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations. We know the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to the outside world,” she says.

It is more than just a little ironic that Albrechtson says this on her blog which appears in on the website of a national newspaper. Is Albrechtson any less guilty than kids on facebook of “seeking constant reassurance; that you are listened to, recognised and important”? Perhaps it is Albrechtson who has brain damage.