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Dragos Cirneci PhD Brain Research Institute

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1 Dragos Cirneci PhD Brain Research Institute
The Good, the bad and the ugly face of the digital era and how the brain cope with it Dragos Cirneci PhD Brain Research Institute

2 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms, which are taken for granted in today’s society we have 5 senses “the primitive part of the brain” the rational vs the emotional brain the brain as a camcorder new neurons doesn’t appear in adult brain genes vs environment effect mental problems as effect of childhood traumatic memories The most important myth is that consciousness dictates our decisions and actions Dragos Cirneci

3 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms, which are taken for granted in today’s society 1. we have 5 senses Actualy we have at least 15 (discovered until now): sight (ophthalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception), touch (tactioception) , feromonal sense, blue light sense, temperature (thermoception), kinesthetic sense (proprioception), sensors for lungs dilatation, pain (nociception), balance (equilibrioception), visceral sense (the perception of internal organs), chemical senses for detecting carbon dioxide concentration in the blood and sugar concentration. Dragos Cirneci

4 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms, which are taken for granted in today’s society 2. “the primitive part of the brain” Human brain is similar in its organization and functions with all the mammals brain. Only some parts are more evolved but these parts exist also in mammals brain. Dragos Cirneci

5 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms,
which are taken for granted in today’s society 3. the rational/the emotional brain Emotions appear almost in all parts of the brain. Differences consist only in timing and type of context/action. Dragos Cirneci

6 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms, which are taken for granted in today’s society 4. the brain as a camcorder The memories are not “replayed from the tape” when they are remembered. The information stored in the brain is actually reconstructed and updated every time when we remember. Every time when we do this that memory could become a new memory incorporating new information related with it. We can learn only things related with what we already know Schacter & Addis, 2007 Dragos Cirneci

7 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms, which are taken for granted in today’s society 5. new neurons doesn’t appear in adult brain The brain generates new neurons during the entire life. These new neurons are essential for learning and coping with stress. Dragos Cirneci

8 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms, which are taken for granted in today’s society 6. genes vs environment effect The environment acts upon our brain by modifying the brain’s genes activity (some genes are turned on some are turned off). Learning and stress are actually examples of genetic effects– or more precisely “epigenetic effects”. Robinson et al. 2008 Dragos Cirneci

9 Neuromyths = common misconceptions about brain mechanisms,
which are taken for granted in today’s society 7. mental problems as effect of childhood traumatic memories Adult mental problems are frequently rooted in childhood traumatic events but in most of the cases not the memory of the event is the cause of the problem. Traumatic events exert epigenetic effects upon the brain’s genes responsible for the circuits involved in adapting to novelty, fast changing environment, uncertainty and negative feedback. Behavior & emotions Trauma Brain’s genes Brain Circuits Dragos Cirneci

10 8. Consciousness dictates our decisions and actions
Dragos Cirneci

11 “The tiger and the monkey” metaphor describing the relationship between unconscious and conscious mind – after Dennis Overbye (2007) Dragos Cirneci

12 genes vs environment effect
The environment acts upon our brain by modifying the brain’s genes activity (some genes are turned on some are turned off). Learning and stress are actually examples of genetic effects– or more precisely “epigenetic effects”. Any enduring activity impacts brain’s genes and hence its functions Dragos Cirneci

13 Human species has evolved in the last 10
Human species has evolved in the last years 100 times more than before and in the last 5000 years 7% of the genes have changed ! 29-30 Septembrie 2010

14 The digital era & the brain
TV, games, computers, mobile phones & internet impact the brain Internet addiction is officially a mental disorder Internet withdrawal on teenagers causes frustration, irritability and headache Dragos Cirneci

15 There are positive and negative effects upon the brain
The internet & the brain There are positive and negative effects upon the brain Positive effects: Action-based games Social media Pornographic sites Negative effects: Internet Browsing Media multitasking s Dragos Cirneci

16 The positive effects Dragos Cirneci

17 The positive effects Action-based video-games activate brain’s reward pathway, increasing the secretion of dopamine Effects on: Focused attention Working memory Decision making Problem solving Reaction time Dragos Cirneci

18 The positive effects In USA 51% of Facebook users are above 40 year age The same 49% of YouTube users …and 45% of Twitter users Dragos Cirneci

19 The positive effects Constant using of social media networks (Facebook) increases oxytocin levels in the brain and is associated with thicker gray matter in mirror neurons network Dragos Cirneci

20 The mirror neurons Dragos Cirneci

21 The positive effects Constant using of social media networks (Facebook) increases oxytocin levels in the brain Dragos Cirneci

22 The positive effects In the countries were pornography is encouraged studies have shown a decrease of rapes and sexual related criminal acts Dragos Cirneci

23 The negative effects Internet browsing negatively impacts the brain. The effects are more visible in children and adolescents Causes: Superficial reading Impulsivity Low creativity Low focused attention Dragos Cirneci

24 The negative effects Dragos Cirneci

25 The negative effects Dragos Cirneci

26 The negative effects s are one of the most disrupting and stressing office tools 12% of the work time is spent reading personal s One employee from a big company receives 400 s/week 70% of them are opened in less than 6 seconds Reading decreases the performance on IQ test with 10 points Dragos Cirneci

27 The negative effects Dragos Cirneci

28 Brain’s connections in stress & depression
In depression the brain genes involved in plasticity & learning are turned off Chronic stress negatively impact connectivity in the brain Liston, McEwen & Casey, 2009 Dragos Cirneci

29 How we can control the negative effects of media
Dragos Cirneci

30 References Deng, W. et al. (2009) – Adult-born hippocampal dentate granule cells undergoing maturation modulate learning and memory in the brain. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29 (43), Liston, C., McEwen, B.S. and Casey, B.J. – Psychosocial stress reversibly disrupts prefrontal processing and attentional control. PNAS, 106 (3), Overby, D. (2007) – Free will: Now you have it, now you don’t. The New York Times Science supplement, january 2, 2007 Robinson, G.E., Fernald, R.D. and Clayton, D.F. (2008) – Genes and social behavior. Science, 322, Schacter, D.L., Addis, D.R. and Buckner, R.L. (2007) – Remembering the past to imagine the future: the prospective brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 8, Dragos Cirneci

31 Thank you for your attention!
Dragos Cirneci Ph.D. address:


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