We start losing neurons (brain cells) almost immediately after birth with very few neurons ever forming during our post-birth lives. However new research out of Harvard shows extensive, expedited loss of neurons after watching just 30 minutes of the reality show ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians.’
In neuroscience we call this programmed cell death “apoptosis.” If it’s disrupted it causes a whole host of developmental, behavioral, and cognitive problems.
The thinking is that neurons are metabolically expensive for the brain to maintain. Thus, in order for a neuron to stay alive and avoid apoptosis it needs to keep getting inputs from and sending signals to other neurons. It needs to keep being useful or else it gets culled.
The phrase we use is “fire together, wire together.” The opposite of this is simply “use it or lose it.”
Scientists used an electroencephalogram (EEG) test that detects electrical activity in your brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to the volunteers scalp. Lounging in a comfortable chair they had the subject watch a 1 hour episode block of ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians.’ After only 30 minutes brain function lowered tremendously and apoptosis began at an unusual rate.
“This is something we usually see in patients with brain trauma or near death,” said lead scientist Brad Wellington. “We are diving in deeper to understand why the brain is reacting in such an unusual way.”