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Brainstorm Health: Digital Media and ADHD, Johnson & Johnson Shares, Liver Cancer Deaths

July 17, 2018, 9:09 PM UTC

Hello, readers! This is Sy.

One of the biggest questions surrounding social media’s explosive, seemingly all-encompassing subjugation of everyday life is: How the heck is the tech affecting our brains?

There have been some mixed results in this (admittedly very early) research; but a new study suggests a correlation (ahem, that is: not necessarily a causation) between excess digital media use by teens and ADHD.

The research was published by USC, UCSD, and UCLA scientists in the journal JAMA. The study involved analyzing nearly 3,000 high school students’ digital and social media habits over the course of two years (specifically, the behavior of 15- and 16-year-olds who didn’t show significant ADHD symptoms to begin with).

As always, it’s important to note the study’s weaknesses and caveats: Results were self-reported, so it was up to the participants to divulge their frequency of digital media use.

Still, the results raised some interesting questions: “Among adolescents followed up over 2 years, there was a statistically significant but modest association between higher frequency of digital media use and subsequent symptoms of ADHD. Further research is needed to determine whether this association is causal,” wrote the study authors.

But, given the nature of modern society, in which smartphones and social media have increasingly become critical tools for staying connected and living everyday life, the broader question raised by such studies is: What can be done about it? Can the potential public, mental health effects of the digital age be warded off by taking regular screen breaks, or preventing children under a certain age from being exposed to digital media all the time? At this juncture, we still seem to have more questions than answers.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The genetically modified embryo debate grows. A panel in the U.K. has raised fresh questions—and a fresh debate—over the future of genetic modification for future generations. A group of scientists parsing the ethical issues surrounding embryonic reengineering concluded that there is "no absolute reason not to pursue it." Ok, so that's not exactly a ringing endorsement specifically in favor of playing the higher power with future generations; but, according to the panel, it's an issue worth exploring with more nuance. "The implications for society are extensive, profound and long-term," said the chair of the inquiry, Professor Karen Yeung. (BBC)


Johnson & Johnson spikes on drug sales surge. Shares of drug giant Johnson & Johnson rose 3.5% in Tuesday trading after the company bested Wall Street expectations on pharmaceutical sales. The quarterly earnings results were impressive, with J&J ringing in 20% surge in drug sales—and that's despite the fact that one of its flagship, top-selling treatments, Remicade, has begun bleeding market share to generic competitors. But there's still a financial gorilla in the room: the record $4.7 billion the firm was ordered to pay to plaintiffs in J&J's long-running talc-based products/cancer cases, a decision CEO Alex Gorsky predicted would not stand on appeal. (Reuters)


Liver cancer deaths are skyrocketing. But why? A troubling new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report finds that, while cancer death rates over all are actually on the decline (a lone bright spot in a concerning trend of lower life expectancy in Americans), liver cancer deaths increased a staggering 43% from 2000 to 2016. My colleague Natasha Bach explains why: "The increase means that more people are developing liver cancer rather than the cancer becoming more deadly. Liver cancer typically develops due to underlying liver diseases. Dr. Farhad Islami, the scientific director of cancer surveillance at the American Cancer Society, explained to CNN that more than 70% of liver cancer cases can be attributed to risk factors like obesity, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and hepatitis B and C infection." (Fortune)


Why MGM Is Suing the Las Vegas Shooting Victimsby Chris Morris

The Unexpected Heroes in the War Against Human Traffickingby Rick McDonell

IBM Is Working With a 'Crypto Dollar' Stablecoinby Jen Wieczner

Elaine Chao: Why It's Taking So Long for Trump's Infrastructure Plan to Landby Lucinda Shen

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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