Surprise: Binge-Watching TV May Cause a Decline in Brain Function


With the second season of Transparent only a few days away, some bad news awaits us: According to a recent study and common sense, probably, binge-watching may be detrimental to the health of our brains.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, showed that people who watched at least three hours of television and had very little exercise did worse on cognitive tests than those who watched less television and engaged in more physical activity. NPR reports the findings were published this week in JAMA Psychiatry.

“Is it because by watching a lot of TV, you’re not challenging your brain?” asked Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a psychiatrist at UCSF who was also a senior author on the study. Could be, but what if we’re watching good TV? The researchers didn’t focus on what the subjects were watching, so it’s unknown whether that would make a difference, though a Brandeis University psychologist named Margie Lachman thinks it might. “Some TV shows can be cognitively stimulating, and there’s some evidence that cognitively stimulating activities can be protective and beneficial,” she said.

Fortunately, Yaffe says the decline in cognitive speed wasn’t huge enough to affect a person’s daily life. “The question is what does it mean if you’re 50 and you’ve got these slight changes?” Yaffe said. “Does it mean you’re on a path to greater changes down the line or does not make a difference? I don’t think we really know the answer to that.”

Still, it wouldn’t be too terrible to take a break and go for a walk in between episodes. I myself plan on attempting to hold a plank position while I catch up on Scream Queens.

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Image via IFC

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