Binge-Watching = Brain Drain

Recent cognitive performance studies suggest that binge-watching TV on a regular basis is bad for your brain. Specifically, researchers at the University of California followed individuals with low exercise levels and high television consumption over 25 years to determine whether these behaviors would negatively effect their midlife cognitive performance.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found what they were looking for. Both the group of individuals who did not exercise and the group that watched more than three hours of daily TV over the time period performed significantly worse on the DSST and Stroop Tests (both of which measure cognitive speed and focus) than the groups that watched relatively little television and/or exercised frequently.  Furthermore, the group that both exercised infrequently and watched more than three hours of daily television did the worst of all of the groups. Researchers concluded that these behaviors result in a rate of decline in cognitive processing and speed that increases with age.

After the study was published, a few researchers made some interesting comments. Margie Lachman (clearly a Netflix enthusiast, jk) pointed out that not all television is created equal: studies show that cognitively stimulating material (documentaries, etc.) can boost brain function while brain numbing material (the Bachelor, sitcoms, etc.) does the opposite. Other researchers questioned whether the decision to exercise and watch less TV didn’t itself reflect increased intelligence, i.e. the chicken before the egg dilemma (put bluntly, were the couch potatoes dumber to begin with?).

As this body of research evolves, it is important to remember that exercise and cognitive stimulation (in addition to neuroprotective supplements, like Mental Mojo) have already been proven to stave off cognitive decline. It’s important to relax, but if you regularly binge-watch television, substituting a book or a walk now and again will pay cognitive dividends over the long term.

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