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War of words after scientist links Internet use to autism

London , Mon, 08 Aug 2011 ANI

London, August 08 (ANI): A neuroscientist has caused uproar after suggesting that there may be a link between increasing usage of the Internet and autism.


Baroness Greenfield, former director of the Royal Institution, believes digital technology could be leading to changes in people's brains.


The professor of pharmacology at Oxford University has previously argued that constant computer and Internet use could be shortening attention spans, encouraging instant gratification and causing a loss of empathy.


But a fellow Oxford professor condemned her remarks on autism as "illogical garbage".


"You may not realise just how much ill-formed speculation parents of [children with autistic spectrum disorders] are exposed to," the Daily Mail quoted Dr Dorothy Bishop, a professor of neuropsychology, as writing in an open letter to Baroness Greenfield.


"Over the years they've been told their children's problems are caused by a cold style of interaction, inoculations, faulty diets, allergies, drinking in pregnancy - the list is endless," she added.


Bishop believes Greenfield, who was speaking in an interview with New Scientist magazine, has ignored a body of evidence which suggests most, if not all, of the rise in autism is down to a widening of the diagnostic criteria and better understanding of the condition.


She said: "Most cases are diagnosed around the age of two, when not many children are using the Internet. And this rise has been documented over the past 20 years, long before Twitter and Facebook."


"I have never claimed new technologies are causing autism. Rather, I've said that the increase in lack of empathy, that is documented scientifically, may be leading to behaviours like that and this should be explored," Greenfield has said in the interview. (ANI)


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