Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Couch Mouse
01 November 2012

Couch Mouse

There might be a sinister threat lurking behind the innocent smiles of the Powerpuff Girls. Scientists and parents alike are increasingly worried that excessive screen gazing might affect children’s development. But testing it scientifically presents a challenge. One new approach is to simulate the situation in mice: young mice were exposed to flashing lights and audio from shows such as Pokémon and the Powerpuff Girls for six hours every day (pictured). Following this ‘overstimulation’ their behaviour was assessed, and the mice showed poorer short-term memory, impaired learning, and unusual behaviour. There are parallels between patterns of brain development in humans and mice, and the researchers hoped to successfully mimic interference with neural circuitry. But overstimulation is a hard concept to define, and may not be the same for mice and children. Such studies must be interpreted with caution, but are not without scientific potential. This could be well worth watching.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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