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  • Researchers from UK, U.S. and Australia looked at how internet affects the brain
  • Found that constantly flicking between items online reduces ability to focus
  • Also revealed people memorise less and rely on internet to find out information

Spending time on the internet is reducing our ability to focus on one task at a time – and it means we no longer store facts in our brains.

Our lives have been forever changed by gaining access to infinite amounts of information at the touch of a button, but the way our head works has too.

A new review looking into the effect of the online world on our brain functions from researchers in the UK, US and Australia, has drawn a number of surprising conclusions.

The review focused on the world wide web’s influence in three areas: attention spans, memory, and social cognition.

It notes that the internet is now ‘unavoidable, ubiquitous, and a highly functional aspect of modern living’ before diving into how it has changed our society.

Professor Jerome Sarris, an author on the paper, told Medical News Today the online world could have far reaching consequences.

He said: ‘The bombardment of stimuli via the internet, and the resultant divided attention commonly experienced, presents a range of concerns.

‘I believe that this, along with the increasing #Instagramification of society, has the ability to alter both the structure and functioning of the brain, while potentially also altering our social fabric.’

The review found that people who regularly multitask online, by checking different social media sites such as Facebook or streaming entertainment, struggle to focus on a single task.

Constant use of the internet, via our smartphones or laptops, means that many of us have developed ‘checking’ behaviours – where the user looks at their phone regularly, but only for short periods of time.

Joseph Firth, another author of the review, told Medical News Today: ‘The limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the internet encourages us towards constantly holding a divided attention ⁠— which then, in turn, may decrease our capacity for maintaining concentration on a single task.’


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