Does watching tv kill brain cells?

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’Does watching tv kill brain cells?’’ We will introduce you to the effects of television on your brain and discover if it is harmful to your neurons.

Does watching tv kill brain cells?

No, watching tv doesn’t kill brain cells. But it does have effects on the brain and the quality of life of people, altering their attention and sleep.

Surely you heard (not infrequently) that watching a lot of television or spending long hours on the computer makes you dumber because it “kills your neurons.” It is also possible that you woke up one Saturday morning lamenting, because the excesses of the night before were going to cost your poor little head dear.

Perhaps the last option is true, but not for the reason you thought. Unless you fall and smack yourself hard in the skull, a night of drinks every now and then isn’t going to sacrifice a percentage of your intelligence for life (but it could give you a painful punch). Just imagine that it is estimated that we have about 100 billion neurons. A lot.

The saying “all excess is bad” is fully applicable in this case, since the sustained abuse of alcohol, for example, can change the chemistry of our brain and deteriorate its cells.

But beyond the effects of some substances on our gray matter, there are more valid reasons to believe that these cells of the nervous system can “go bad.”

The effects of television on our brain

So easy to say “don’t watch a lot of television”, without taking into account that it is the cheapest and most accessible entertainment that any average home has on hand. After all, children stay still when you turn on the device.

 And you, after a workday that leaves you exhausted, how can you have energy for something other than standing in front of the TV and distracting yourself for a while?

All this is evident, it is not denied. Nor is it good to demonize a form of entertainment so deeply ingrained in culture.

But it’s not a bad idea to review what science and experts say about it. What are all those alerts that we hear daily about the risks of watching a lot of television? Are they one of many fashionable clichés or do they really have a foundation?

Your brain and television

After studying brain activity when watching television, the scientists were able to detect that in just one minute it goes from “beta waves” to “alpha waves”. 

Beta waves are produced when the brain has all its functions active, while alpha waves correspond to a reverie state, similar to hypnosis, where logic operations, understanding, creativity and association are stopped.

This is a state similar to that which would occur if a person is forced to stare at a wall while standing in line. This means that when we watch TV, our brain barely works.

In that state, consciousness is much more manipulable. Advertisers know that very well, who see their main sales window on television. Under a state of quasi-hypnosis, people are much more influenced: the critical capacity is dormant. So we end up wanting to buy more, even though we don’t need to.

In the long term, the main consequence of this is that attention span deteriorates. The brain gets used to that kind of lethargy and that is why it becomes difficult to focus the mind intensively on something.

Other health effects

That’s not all. Several studies indicate that watching television increases states of stress and irritation, which alarmingly increases the production of cholesterol in the body. This is due to the number of frames that reach the brain in a short time. In an old television, 4 frames per second were transmitted, while in LED televisions, 100 were sent in the same period.

This means that the brain is literally bombarded by a multitude of stimuli. The stress derived from this activity may go unnoticed by consciousness, but not by the rest of the body. If violent or highly stressful contents are added to this, the body responds by producing significant amounts of adrenaline.

In this way, a while of television can be perfectly equivalent to a strong fight. It is estimated that, especially in children, there may be an increase in cholesterol production that reaches up to 300% after watching a highly violent program.

Additionally, that speed in receiving stimuli may be at the base of the impatience that is so prevalent today. The body, in one way or another, ends up synchronized with such rapidity that there is no room for pauses and that is why we are increasingly marked by the idea of ​​”I want it now!”

It’s also not about you never watching TV again. The key is to be cautious and moderate in the face of what can be a little Pandora’s Box.

Trash TV and brain

Trash TV programs have been implemented on our televisions for a few years now. These programs are characterized by “their poor quality of form and content, in which vulgarity, vulgarity, morbidness and, sometimes, even obscenity and pornographic character prevail”.

This type of program would have a very negative impact on our brains. Among them:

  • They affect the way of being of the people.
  • Viewing aggressive content stimulates feelings of aggressiveness.
  • Direct exposure to content of violence, discrimination, sexism, superstitious thinking, and guilt.
  • They produce narrow-mindedness, brutality and vital superficiality.

As a result of the inappropriate use of sexual stereotypes, equality and cooperation among young people are not promoted.

So disconnecting for a few minutes watching TV may be fine. However, we must be very careful with the content we see and the exposure time.

What really damages neurons?

In the first place, the death of these brain cells is totally natural, since there is a process called apoptosis, where basically the neurons that “do not stick” (do not make synapses) and that is expensive for the brain to maintain, stop existing.

But this is something natural and does not happen in large quantities, so it has no significant consequences in percentage terms. On the other hand, he does have a stroke and / or strong blows to the head. These can cause millions of neurons to “kick the bucket.”

In the first case, ischemic stroke is the most common and the one that causes the death of neurons. What happens is that a blood clot plugs an artery in the brain, making it impossible for it to flow to the rest of the brain.

As for the strong impacts on the skull, such as those suffered in car accidents or even some sports, they can cause these cells to produce a protein in response that takes them to their own end, in a massive way.

There is a list of other diseases, abuses or accidents that can kill your neurons, and you can find it with their respective scientific sources in this note. Some are more serious and take a good part of your brain cells and others not so much. Therefore, not in all cases, your intelligence is directly affected.

Well, does TV damage them or not? 

Television in excess does not kill neurons in any case. But it can have varied effects on your brain, from positive to negative, and for the latter, there are many possible explanations that not only have to do with the head, but because watching television is generally sedentary and individual, which affects activity physical and socialization. 

For these reasons, it is recommended, especially that children do not see it excessively: even if it does not kill cells, seeing it more than necessary in time can affect our mind.

Abuses to avoid

Regardless of the death of neurons, there are bad habits that can make neurons work worse. According to the neuroscientist at Purdue University, Julia Chester, what can “wear out” neurons, but not necessarily kill them, is alcohol abuse.

As Chester explains, taking it in excess changes the chemistry of the brain and for us to understand it better, she exemplifies it with a cell phone charger. “It has several cables that can wear out over time. If some of them break, the phone may take longer to charge, “says the neuroscientist, comparing it to what happens to the brain after years of alcohol abuse.

Worse is the effect of hard drug abuse, as it can change how gray matter works. Georgetown University professor of neurology and biochemistry James Giordano argues that brain structure can change because neurons get used to and depend on that bad habit.

But calm down. According to research in recent years, neuronal deterioration could be remedied. Not as effectively as cells in other parts of the body, but they have found some evidence that some neurons regenerate (especially if you nudge them with chocolate, sex, aerobics, or all together at the same time).

How do neurons regenerate?

In a 2013 investigation, scientists from several European and American universities, led by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, discovered that a third of cells in the hippocampus, an important part of the brain related to emotions and memory, regenerate. According to this study, about 1,400 neurons can be created per day.

By studying the neurons of deceased people, they discovered that some had been “created” when they were adults. But how did they know? They could measure it from the concentration of carbon 14 in them. This substance is present in animals, people, the environment, and is used in archeology to date the antiquity of mummies and objects.

However, we cannot omit scientists who consider that more evidence is lacking to fully verify neurogenesis in humans, since it has been analyzed mainly in rats and monkeys. Even so, numerous articles speak of growing scientific evidence and, as we said before, those who support this assure that its growth could be promoted with specific actions.

Now, don’t set yourself high expectations either. This does not mean that you can misbehave whenever you want and abuse substances at any rate. Keep in mind that the body is two things that are connected: healthy body, healthy mind.

So as a conclusion: keep having fun but don’t forget, all excesses are bad. Also don’t forget to exercise your neurons. Read a good book, write, learn a new language, or play mind games. After all, we are our brains!

FAQS: Does watching tv kill brain cells?

Do you lose brain cells when you watch TV?

New UK study indicates that viewing over three hours of TV a day on a daily basis could lead to cognitive impairment in language and memory down the road.

Can watching too much TV damage your brain?

Thats not all. Several studies indicate that watching television increases states of stress and irritation, which alarmingly increases the production of cholesterol in the body. This is due to the number of frames that reach the brain in a short time.

How does TV rot your brain?

Television reduces your ability to think critically. When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left side of your brain.

Does watching TV make you smarter?

Think of the cognitive benefits that are attributed to reading: attention, patience, retention, analysis of narrative lines. Over the last half century, TV shows have increased their demands on these mental faculties.

How many hours of TV a day is healthy?

Researchers say it could be a safe way to reduce ill health to scale down to 2 hours a day.

In this post we answered the question ‘’Does watching tv kill brain cells?’’ We introduced you to the effects of television on your brain and discover if it is harmful to your neurons.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Spalding, Kirsty L., Bergmann, O., Alkass, K., Bernard, S., Salehpour, M., Huttner, Hagen B., … Frisén, J. (2013). Dynamics of Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Adult Humans. Cell, 153(6), 1219–1227.