How addiction to smartphones affects a teenager’s brain –

How addiction to smartphones affects a teenager’s brain


Washington: Do you also keep checking your cell phone every five minutes for news, information or maybe an occasional phone call? If so, you may have to take a break, as the researchers found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of teenagers addicted to smartphones and the Internet.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of Americans say they could not live without their smartphones. Researchers at the University of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to get a unique view of the brains of teenagers addicted to smartphones and the Internet. MRS is a type of MRI that measures the chemical composition of the brain.

The team badyzed 19 young people (with an average age of 15.5 years, nine men) diagnosed with Internet addiction or smartphones. 12 of the young addicts received nine weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, modified from a cognitive therapy program for gambling addiction. "The higher the score, the more serious the addiction is," said researcher Hyung Suk Seo.

The results indicated that adolescent addicts had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia, severity, and impulsivity.

Researchers performed MRS exams in the young addict before and after behavioral therapy and a single MRS study in control patients to measure the levels of gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits or slows down brain signals, and glutamate-glutamine (Glx), a neurotransmitter that causes neurons to become more electrically excited.

The results revealed that the ratio of GABA to Glx increased significantly in the anterior cingulate cortex of young people addicted to smartphones and the Internet before therapy.

Excess GABA can cause a series of side effects, including drowsiness and anxiety. "The increase in GABA levels and the altered balance between GABA and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex may contribute to our understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of addictions," Seo said.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

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