(HealthDay News) — Subjects that consume several media formats at once, including smartphones, computers and other devices, have been found to have an altered brain structure, according to a study published online in PLoS ONE.

The research team used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brain structures of 75 people who had provided information about their use of personal media devices as well as television and print media. The researchers found that, regardless of personality traits, people who frequently used multiple media devices had lower gray matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex.

“Media multitasking is becoming more prevalent in our lives today and there is increasing concern about its [impact] on our cognition and social-emotional well-being,” lead author Kep Kee Loh, a neuroscientist at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, said in a university news release. 

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Loh noted that it’s conceivable that individuals with less dense gray matter are more inclined to multitask due to weaker socio-emotional regulation. But it’s equally plausible that higher levels of exposure to multitasking situations can lead to structural changes in the brain.

These findings support previous studies that found links between media multitasking and inattention as well as anxiety and depression, according to the release. But the release also noted that other research has found that learning new things can boost gray matter density in certain areas of the brain.

“The exact mechanisms of these changes are still unclear,” Loh said. However, the study only revealed a link between multitasking and less-dense gray matter, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Further research is needed to clarify the link.


  1. Loh KK, Kanai R. PLoS One. 2014;doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106698