Screens & Their Effects on the Developing Mind




David and Lyn Silfen University Professor

Project Summary

I must admit that when applying to PURM, I was lucky enough to have received my top choice, whose prompt appealed partially due to its open-ended and ambiguous nature. Working under Dr. Moreno to help him determine the scope of a book in its earliest stages proved valuable for numerous reasons. For one, I was thrown into first researching a topic that I had never spent considerable time thinking about; however, I found the largely negative yet wildly conflicting literature to be stimulating and highly relevant to the issues facing society today. Secondly, I was forced out of my STEM-based comfort zone to explore screen addictions under the guidance of a renowned bioethicist. In turn I had to quickly familiarize myself with various fields from neuroethics to social psychology. After these first few weeks of acquainting myself with related topics such as the mechanisms underlying habit formation, I sometimes found engrossing myself in foreign topics to be overwhelming. Slowly I started asking what I believed to be the most pertinent and impactful questions, while trying to juggle conflicting professional opinions and studies on the myriad facets of screen use. Eventually I was able to narrow down my research into the niche of how screens affect neurodevelopment and the implications this has as we now consume digital media from an early age into adulthood. I was able to integrate my prior knowledge from coursework in BBB with many of the studies I read. Finally and most importantly, I came to find that screen addictions, in spite of the lacking neurobiological evidence, can neither be explained by a single correlation nor compared to existing addiction models, such as that of opioids. Dr. Moreno and I operated on the goal of my learning and becoming an expert in essentially what most interested me regarding the neuroscience of screen behaviors. This experience gave me a first-hand look into the increasingly important field of bioethics, which will continue to hold a crucial role in our ever-evolving, high tech society. This project challenged me to look beyond the clinical and hard-science aspects of the long road to becoming a doctor, and helped me to realize certain values that I believe shape the best physicians.