Smartphone And Internet Addiction Causes Brain Imbalance: Study

By Athena Chan | Dec 01, 2017 06:09 AM EST

Researchers found evidence of chemical imbalance in the brains of young people who are addicted to smartphones and internet use. The imbalance ratio was seen to be significantly correlated to addictions, anxiety, and depression.

Smartphone And Internet Addiction Test

Researchers of a new study about smartphone and internet addiction focused on the brain chemistry of young people who were diagnosed as being addicted to using their smartphones or the internet.

Researchers conducted the study on 19 young individuals who were diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction, and another group of 19 young individuals as the healthy controls. The mean age for both groups is 15.5, and both groups have nine males each. Of the addicted participants, 12 were subjected to cognitive behavioral therapy for their addiction.

They used a standardized addiction test to determine the gravity of the participants' addictions, focusing on how internet usage affects their social life, productivity, feelings, sleeping patterns, and daily routines. What they found was that the addicted participants yielded higher scores in terms of insomnia, impulsivity, anxiety, and depression.

"The higher the score, the more severe the addiction," said Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, M.D., one of the authors of the study.

Chemical Imbalance

Researchers also performed a magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to study the brain chemistry of the participants both before and after the cognitive behavioral therapy. They found that compared to the MRS results of the healthy individuals, the ratio of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) to glutamate-glutamine (Glx) was increased in the brains of the participants with internet or smartphone addiction prior to therapy.

GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain which controls brain signals, while Glx is a neurotransmitter that makes the neurons excited. In other studies, GABA has been shown to be involved in regulating certain brain functions including anxiety. Too much of it may result in anxiety and drowsiness.

Consequence Of Smartphone And Internet Addiction

Results of the study show that just like any other addictions such as gaming addictions, internet and smartphone addictions may have serious implications. Though researchers state that more studies may be needed to fully see the clinical implications of the findings, the good news is that the GAMA and Glx ratios of the addicted patients returned back to normal after the cognitive behavioral therapy.

As a result, researchers believe that the chemical imbalance that they observed in the young participants could help contribute to the way people understand addictions and treatments for it.

Results of the study were presented at this year's meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

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