IMR Press / JIN / Special Issues / human_brain_digital_era

The Human Brain in the Digital Era

Submission deadline: 21 February 2023
Special Issue Editor
  • Laurie A. Manwell, PhD
    Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada
    Interests: behavioural neuroscience; psychopharmacology; neurodevelopment; neurodegeneration; stress and well-being; effects of excessive screen time; transdomain model of health; transformative education
Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Is excessive time spent online harmful for brain development? Can it increase the risk of addiction and other psychiatric disorders, and can it increase the risk of accelerated neurodegeneration and dementia later in life? Answering such questions requires an interdisciplinary approach that considers the individual in their physical and social environment, as well as their neural circuits and the cellular/molecular processes involved.

Cognitive-behavioural brain reserve (CBBR) theories suggest that brain structure and function are shaped by experience to create a protective reserve against insult, injury, disease, disorder, and age-related deterioration later in life. Early life stress results in complex, nonlinear interactions between the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems that affect a person’s biopsychosocial functioning in ways that are adaptive or maladaptive. The effects of acute and chronic stressors on neuroplasticity are mediated by changes in glucocorticoids, neurotransmitters, dendritic arborisation or pruning, and other signalling cascades that increase or decrease behavioural resilience. Enriched experiences (e.g., sensory stimulating environments, attentive caregiving, quality education, and interdependent psychosocial relationships) can result in more complex neural patterns and flexibility and thus greater CBBR. Stressful or deprived experiences (e.g., excessive sensory stimulation, and abusive or neglectful environments) and exposure to harmful drugs can result in less complex patterns and rigidity and thus lower CBBR. If the allostatic load becomes too great for the neuroimmunoendocrine system to manage, the process shifts toward pathology and disease. This is also affected by the individuals’ age and stage of development.

Therefore, CBBR arises from different points on a continuum of sensory-motor and cognitive-emotional stimulation experienced during development. Excessive screen time can act as a non-normative stimulus that exerts its effects at a sub-stress threshold level, as well as an acute and chronic stressor. Research in humans and in animal models has shown that time spent on screens such as televisions, computers, tablets and smartphones is associated with impairment of many domains including attention, learning, memory, emotional regulation and social behaviour, and with substance use and abuse. Some of the effects are similar to those seen in older adults with mild cognitive impairment in the early stages of dementia. These include impaired concentration, orientation, acquisition of recent memories, recall of past memories, social functioning and self-care. Elucidating the underlying biopsychosocial mechanisms of the effects of screen time on CBBR has important implications for predicting human brain evolution in the digital era.

Dr. Laurie A. Manwell

Guest Editor

excessive sensory stimulation
Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted via our online editorial system at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to start your submission. Manuscripts can be submitted now or up until the deadline. All papers will go through peer-review process. Accepted papers will be published in the journal (as soon as accepted) and meanwhile listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, reviews as well as short communications are preferred. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office to announce on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts will be thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. Please visit the Instruction for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) in this open access journal is 2200 USD. Submitted manuscripts should be well formatted in good English.

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