The proof is: TV really rots your brain

The proof is: TV really rots your brain

USo far, claims that television makes people stupid have only been supported by anecdotal evidence. Granted, at some point it seems that people who watch large amounts of television become so intellectually deficient that they unwittingly start clapping to themed tunes like imprisoned sea lions playing for fish, but this does not happen. isn’t something you could write a paper doctor about.

Now, unfortunately, science has come to support it. According to Dr. Ryan Dougherty of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, the more television you watch in middle age, the lower your gray matter volume. Examining the viewing habits of 599 American adults between 1990 and 2011, Dougherty found that those who watched above average television had reduced volume in their frontal cortex and entorhinal cortex. Basically your mom was right: TV really rots your brain.

To make matters worse, Dougherty goes out of his way to suggest other sedentary activities that are better for your brain. Horribly, these include board games. Which begs the question: would you rather lower your IQ by watching the cultural art form that defines the 21st century, or stay smart forever by joylessly pushing counters around a backgammon board?

Look, I admit that this study caused a moment of concern in me. I’ve been writing on TV for 12 years now, and I’ve probably watched a lot more than the average viewer. Did I do this at the cost of my intellect? I spent a full day last week watching the entire new season of The Morning Show. Is that why I forgot my car inspection date this morning? I’ve watched Lost, throughout, three times in my life. Most people bailed out after two sets. Is that why they can remember their online banking password and I can’t?

But you know what? I think we are doing fine. Because, if I’m not mistaken, I don’t think the study made any distinction on the type of television the guinea pigs watched, and I suspect that’s a big variable. If people, for example, watched four hours of crazy, brilliant entertainment shows every day, of course, they would lose their brain functions. It’s like being spoon-fed ice cream every day and then realizing that you can’t tuck into your pants anymore.

I refuse to stop watching such important stuff… The White Lotus. Photography: HBO / Foxtel

We are different, however. I’m assuming behavior based on you reading an article in the televised section of a broadsheet newspaper, but I suspect you’re like me. You only look at the good stuff. You like television that challenges you, that makes you question things, that makes you search for meaning. You still spend, 14 years after the fact, a lot of time wondering if David Chase’s Made in America editing decisions contained any hidden meaning about Tony Soprano’s fate. You agonize over the motivation of the character choices in The Wire. You are so used to overthinking television that you recently came up with a great unified theory on the logistics of policing on Paw Patrol. For you, television is not a passive activity. It’s an obsession. Your brain does not rot; it is glowing with theories, questions and excitement.

I have to believe it. We all do. The moment we give in and let ourselves believe that our dedication to television interferes with our ability to think, we are admitting defeat. We admit that those smug people who brag about not owning a TV really are as superior as they think they are. Well, I don’t have it. Brains intact or not, these people still lack immense moments of cultural unity. The savagery of the succession. The slow emotional destruction of Mare of Easttown. The White Lotus’ quick social commentary. This is something important, and I refuse to give it up because some classy doctor says the shiny box makes your brain go bad.

Having said that, I probably need some sort of contingency. So please tell my kids that I love them. Strictly Come Dancing is starting soon, and I doubt I will be able to remember their names afterwards.


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