Scientist Susan Greenfield claims that videogames cause dementia in children. Who are we to argue?
In a recent article in the UK’s The Sun newspaper, Baroness Greenfield (she’s a baroness, for whatever that’s worth) urged parents to drag their kids away from games, saying the electronic diversions can cause addiction and physical degeneration.
“Screen technologies cause high arousal which in turn activates the brain system’s underlying addiction. This results in the attraction of yet more screen-based activity,” Greenfield claims.
Additionally, Greenfield says, “connections” within the brain “can be temporarily disabled by activities with a strong sensory content — ‘blowing the mind’. Or they can be inactivated permanently by degeneration — ie. dementia.”
That’s a pretty damning claim, but then again, Greenfield is a baroness (seriously, what does that mean?). Perhaps more importantly, Greenfield is also a scientist who specializes in the physiology of the human brain, and who has spent decades researching Alzheimer’s, a disease characterized by exactly this same kind of neural degradation.
It stands to reason that she might know a thing or two about this topic, no?
Maybe not. It seems this isn’t the first time Greenfield has attacked gaming. This blog entry by Bad Science author Dr. Ben Goldacre levels a harsh critique against Greenfield’s claims, stating that despite years of this same rhetoric she has yet to publish (or even present) any sort of legitimate data to support her claims.
Continuing, Goldacre also points out that Greenfield has launched a line of games specifically designed to combat the kind of mental damage she claims other videogames can cause. In that light, her motivation for slamming the industry as dangerous has a familiar halo of capitalist intent, doesn’t it?
At the end of the entry, Goldacre flat out says that if Greenfield truly believed what she was spouting, she would have a moral and ethical obligation to alert people via proper, respected channels.
“If you believe that computers – which are widespread – pose a serious environmental hazard to children, then you have a responsibility to your peers and most importantly the public to present your theory clearly and formally in an academic journal, so your scientific peers can assess it,” Goldacre writes.
“Baroness Greenfield’s response to my concerns, and my suggestion that she should write up her concerns about computers damaging childrens’ brains formally, has been to say that I am like the people who denied that smoking caused cancer. I think that’s just offensive, I’m afraid, and I’d be happy to debate her sensibly and publicly at her convenience.”
Though the blog post was written in January 2010, Greenfield has yet to take Goldacre up on this offer.