A computer desk may help keep you awake at night, but it may also be able, researchers say, to make you more efficient.
The discovery could provide the first evidence of a biological link between computer use and mental health.
The study was conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Massachusetts General Hospital.
The results were published online in the journal Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms.
They looked at whether there were any differences between the way a computer screen is displayed and how it was used in the brain.
Computer screens, which are usually placed on desks or other surfaces, are designed to be easy to see and use.
But the way they are displayed can also be very distracting.
“We were interested in whether the brain uses these screens differently in response to a computer use, and we found that they do,” said lead author Dr. David Gelles, a neuroscientist at Johns.
The researchers also looked at the brains of 20 adults, aged between 20 and 70, who were either using a computer or watching a movie.
They used a computer monitor to measure the amount of time they spent looking at screens, and their brain activity was recorded.
In the computer use group, their brain showed higher levels of activity during the computer screen time than the viewing group.
In contrast, their brains showed lower levels of brain activity during watching a video.
The scientists say their findings support the idea that screen time, and particularly the way the screen is presented, may influence brain activity in ways that could affect mental health.
“Our study provides the first direct evidence that screen use may be a risk factor for mental health problems in the workplace,” Gellas said.
“In addition, the results suggest that, at least in young adults, there may be an effect on the way that these screens are used.”
More research is needed to determine whether screen time itself is a risk for mental illness in the future.
But Gell as well as co-authors are working to find out more.
“Our findings may shed some light on how the brain may use screens to manage attention and distraction, such as distracting others from watching a screen,” Gelle said.
The findings are in line with findings of a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who also published the findings, say that screens may have the ability to regulate blood flow in the brains.
This allows the brain to process more information more quickly, and also to control blood pressure.
A computer monitor was used to measure brain activity at various times.
The computer screen was shown to be distracting.
The screen was presented at certain times, which may have had a different impact on brain activity compared to when it was not.
“The screen can be really distracting,” said co-author Dr. Jennifer Tisch, a psychiatrist at the university’s Center for Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
“If you see this kind of screen for hours at a time, you can actually cause blood to flow out of your head, which causes brain damage.”