All posts on December 9th, 2015

Neurodegeneration, internment, internet

Two things happened in the lift at work, earlier this week.  Two trips in the lift, on Tuesday.

Trip 1: whilst heading downstairs I overheard two blokes discussing one of their children.  In a nutshell, the young boy who wasn’t really interested in anything; he wasn’t really a sports person, not a creative person…. but said the father, he was interested in his iPad.  The other bloke responded that maybe the boy would get into programming, or game design… a somewhat encouraging and over-positive response, I thought.

This is a classic tale of a modern kid who spends most of his time squirrelled away in the house, immersed in a device.  I imagine he messages friends, speaks with strangers on-line, plays games and basically doess what most kids do: goof-around.  But these children are not creating anything and to a large extent they don’t have to imagine anything, it’s all there for them, on YouTube, in the Game..  effect their brains are processing stuff but as far as cognitive activity goes it’s not-a-hell-of-a-lot.

Back when I was a kid (yes, I’m saying that!), goofing around at least involved playing sword fights (I was deeply into Zorro) with my mates, using Mum’s bamboo garden stakes (many were sacrificed!) as make-pretend swords, or riding bikes around the local English countryside.  This wasn’t a particularly idyllic childhood, it’s just what kids did.  Imagination was required, story-lines were made up; blood-flow was required to pedal around and mischief was made!  Yes, I had a computer when I was 10 and with it’s whole 1024 bites, I learned to code in BASIC..  but it didn’t stop me playing in the garden.

Nowadays we are spoiled for choice but the sheer volume of information and entertainment on-hand has, I contend, changed our psychophysiological processes in a way which has some profound ramifications for cognitive development, motivation, creativity and social interaction.  I see it often – actually all the time.  On the train on the way into work.. people (me included) with their heads lowered to their devices..   children are potentially being handicapped by this over-stimulus and lack of active ‘living’!

Trip 2:  If you happen to work for a large corporate or educational institution, you may have experienced the inside-marketing phenomenon of plastering the interior of lifts in your building, with advertising.  It’ll tell you about a product that you, as a staff member should have.. or an exciting product development that’s about to be released.

It so happened that the messaging for this advertising was spread across the lift doors in a way, that when they opened, the word “internet” was split.. so sliding off to the right was “ternet”..  which made me look at the word a little differently.  I extrapolated and came up with : internment.  A word with a vastly different meaning … unless you’ve watched The Matrix.

Internet  . . . Internment

Internment – held within…?  Dictionary meaning confinement.

It is possible that the confinement being experienced by the boy discussed on the first lift trip above, is shortening his lifespan based on fewer new experiences.  Fewer new experiences and a lack of cognitive activity could contribute to increased chances of mental disorders, including degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.  This may appear to be a stretch at first glance, however consider cognitive reserve theory .   This theory suggests that “differences in lifestyle may increase cognitive reserve by making the individual more resilient” to the most profound affects of Alzheimer’s disease.  Taken in this context, confinement of mind to simple absorption becomes a causal factor for poor mental health.

Scarmeas N, Zarahn E, Anderson KE, Habeck CG, Hilton J, Flynn J, Marder KS, Bell KL, Sackeim HA, Van Heertum RL, Moeller JR, Stern Y (2003). Association of life activities with cerebral blood flow in Alzheimer disease: implications for the cognitive reserve hypothesis. Archives of Neurology. 60(3):359-65

You thought those kids were just not well adjusted.  Each generation provides largely for the one(s) before, either through societal expectation (looking after your parents) or societal enforcement, through taxation.  Certainly in Australia the emphasis is on the latter, with a significant public health care system and pension for the aged. This is paid for by wage earners, the net-contributors.

Thought needs to be given to the net-contributors, their mental and physical health, ethics and the proportion of population that makes up this cohort. Their childhood development is an important part of that.


It doesn’t take me long to have thoughts like these and frankly, most of the time I forget them – however Duncan at work wanted to read more content on my Blog, so here it is.  This one’s for you Duncs 🙂

Thank you Lydia for proof reading.

On other news, I heard a fantastic version of the classic Deep Purple track “Burn” by funk-bassist T Stevens, which frankly Rocked My Socks Off!

And this little (hour long) review of the original track!

Here’s TM and crew

Burn, from 1974, California Jam, with the most excellent Glen Hughes, and Ian Pace on drums, surely laying the groundwork for the Muppet’s character ‘Animal’


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