Too Much TV Could Harm Kids’ IQ, Brain Structure Study Contends

Robert Jonathan

Excessive television watching may have a damaging effect on the structure of kids' brains, resulting in lower IQ.

That was the general conclusion of the study conducted by Japanese researchers from Tohoku University, who also suggested that this was the first investigation of brain structural development and TV viewing.

In this instance, an increase in the brain's gray matter tissue in the frontalopolar cortex could be linked to lower verbal intelligence.

This may not be good news if you and your family spent the bulk of last weekend, for example, watching NFL football or anything else, or you use television as a baby-sitter to a significant degree. In fact, in a reference to old-fashioned technology, the television set used to be called the "boob tube" because of its perceived dumbing-down effects.

In the study, the brain scientists followed several hundred children, about evenly divided between boys and girls ranging in ages 5 to 18, who on average spent about two hours in front of the TV. Some watched four hours per day.

MRIs of the participants showed that the heavy TV viewers had the most gray matter on their brain's frontal lobe area. In this instance, more gray matter is not a plus. The researchers contend, "These areas show developmental cortical thinning during development, and children with superior IQs show the most vigorous cortical thinning in this area."

As published in the Cerebral Cortex journal, the study authors concluded, "… We also confirmed negative effects of TV viewing on verbal intelligence quotient (IQ) in cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. These anatomical correlates may be linked to previously known effects of TV viewing on verbal competence, aggression, and physical activity. In particular, the present results showed effects of TV viewing on the frontopolar area of the brain, which has been associated with intellectual abilities."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids ages two and under shouldn't watch any TV, while those over two should be limited to no more than two hours of so-called qualify programming.

A wholly separate study recently determined that more spiritually or religiously inclined adults had a thicker brain cortex (the area containing the gray matter) and, as a result, may be less prone to depression.

Do the kids in your home watch too much TV?