Higher media multi-tasking activity is associated with smaller gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 24;9(9):e106698. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106698. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Media multitasking, or the concurrent consumption of multiple media forms, is increasingly prevalent in today's society and has been associated with negative psychosocial and cognitive impacts. Individuals who engage in heavier media-multitasking are found to perform worse on cognitive control tasks and exhibit more socio-emotional difficulties. However, the neural processes associated with media multi-tasking remain unexplored. The present study investigated relationships between media multitasking activity and brain structure. Research has demonstrated that brain structure can be altered upon prolonged exposure to novel environments and experience. Thus, we expected differential engagements in media multitasking to correlate with brain structure variability. This was confirmed via Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) analyses: Individuals with higher Media Multitasking Index (MMI) scores had smaller gray matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Functional connectivity between this ACC region and the precuneus was negatively associated with MMI. Our findings suggest a possible structural correlate for the observed decreased cognitive control performance and socio-emotional regulation in heavy media-multitaskers. While the cross-sectional nature of our study does not allow us to specify the direction of causality, our results brought to light novel associations between individual media multitasking behaviors and ACC structure differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Gray Matter / anatomy & histology
  • Gray Matter / physiology*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / anatomy & histology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Multimedia*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Funding for this project came from a PRESTO grant from the Japan Science and Technology Agency. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.