Addiction to smartphones and the Internet can alter the chemistry of the adolescent brain, according to a study –

Addiction to smartphones and the Internet can alter the chemistry of the adolescent brain, according to a study


SINGAPORE: Teenagers addicted to the internet and smartphones may have chemical imbalances in the brain that are similar to people who experience depression and anxiety, researchers in South Korea said.

The research found that teenagers addicted to smartphones have a large amount of neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the emotional control center of the brain, according to the study's lead author Hyung Suk Seo, professor of neuroradiology at the University of Korea in Seoul, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

GABA is found in everyone's brain, but a large part of the neurotransmitter in the wrong areas can have mentally diminishing effects.

Singaporeans spend most of their waking time on digital devices: 12 hours and 42 minutes a day on average, according to an Ernst & Young survey of 1,000 people aged 18 to 69 in February.

Internet addiction, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, is an excessive use of the internet that harms daily life, sleep and relationships. Checking the email early in the morning or spending an hour scrolling through Instagram after work does not mean Internet addiction.

Adolescents whose test scores indicated an addiction tended to say that their use of the internet and smartphones interfered with their daily routines: living, sleeping, and productivity. These adolescents also had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia and impulsivity than the control group.

However, due to the small sample size of the study (19 internet addicts and 19 without internet). addicted teenagers), it may be too early to link the chemical imbalances of adolescents with anxiety and depression, said Max Wintermark, a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University, who was not involved in the study.

More tests are needed in a larger group of people, he said in an online article in Live Science.

The good news is that the chemical imbalance is reversible using cognitive behavioral therapy. This was noticed in 12 of the internet addicted adolescents who went through the therapy for nine weeks. According to the researchers, these adolescents performed weekly 75-minute sessions of mindfulness exercises, which included the recognition of Internet impulses, the search for alternative activities and the expression of emotions.

"With appropriate intervention, adolescents were able to basically correct those chemical changes" in their brains, said Professor Wintermark. "That's the part of the study that I find most interesting, it shows that there is hope."

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