TikTok: neuroscientist explains how the social network impairs the brain`s ability to focus

27/01/2023 17:30

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TikTok is constantly criticized for user safety issues. A recent controversial event is the ”blackout challenge” that allegedly caused the death of a 12-year-old child. Even in appropriate use cases, the social network that popularized the short video system can affect brain function.

Dr. Fabiano de Abreu Agrela, Post PhD in neurosciences and biologist, elaborated an analysis on how the content format of the TikTok can impair the ability to focus and concentrate in a study approved by the Europeian Journal of Development.

As explained by the expert, social networks generate “addiction to rewards” in the brain, such that they cause hormonal imbalances that reduce the ability to focus and can trigger psychological illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

“Currently, the excessive use of social networks guided by speed, where short-term content is endlessly provided based on tastes and needs, identified via algorithm, mold brain chemistry causing a series of addiction to the dopamine generated by these ‘pleasure pills’ , causing mental fatigue”, explains Agrela.

Mental fatigue, therefore, prevents the brain from having the sense to complete tasks – such as reading an entire book, cooking, cleaning a room, among other jobs. This is because the brain gets “accustomed” to replacing a stimulus with another stronger one, of greater interest, as it does when watching videos on TikTok.

Dopamine is the agent behind this condition. The neurotransmitter is released in the brain as a reward system for pleasurable activities, which are trivialized with the use of social networks. In this way, the brain becomes “addicted” to the substance, demanding higher and higher doses and stopping tasks when the release is reduced.

TikTok is not the only social network with this problematic and vicious mechanism. Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts are other forms of content that focus on showing short videos recommended to users.

The doctor’s alert follows concerns expressed by several other experts around social media — not just the way it impacts brain function, but also the type of self-destructive content that is not filtered on the platform.

About the Author

Dr. Fabiano de Abreu Agrela Rodrigues, is a Postdoctoral and PhD in neurosciences elected member of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society and Member of the Society for Neuroscience (USA) and of the APA - American Philosophical Association, Master in Psychology, Bachelor in Biology It is history; also Technologist in Anthropology with several national and international training in Neurosciences and Neuropsychology. He is director of the Heráclito Research and Analysis Center (CPAH), Scientist at the Martin Dockweiler University Hospital, Head of the Department of Science and Technology at Logos University International, active member of Redilat, associate member of APBE - Associação Portuguesa de Biologia Evolutiva. Member of Mensa, Intertel and TNS. CV BR: http://lattes.cnpq.br/1428461891222558 CV EN: https://www.cienciavitae.pt/portal/en/8316-38CC-0664 CV INT: https://orcid. org/0000-0002-5487-5852


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