Internet addiction impacts adolescent brain development

Internet addiction impacts adolescent brain development

Adolescent Brain

A recent study has found that excessive internet use is changing the brains of teenagers. Researchers at University College London conducted scans that show the brains of teenagers who are addicted to the internet undergo changes in the areas involved in active thinking. These changes can impact intellectual ability, physical coordination, mental health, and overall development.

The study examined 12 studies where functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans were conducted on a total of 237 young people aged 10 to 19, all formally diagnosed with internet addiction. The scans revealed both increased and decreased activity in parts of the brain activated when resting, and an overall decrease in functional connectivity. This connectivity involves how regions of the brain interact with each other in the executive control network, which is responsible for active thinking.

Max Chang, a master’s student at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health and the lead author of the study, said, “Adolescence is a crucial developmental stage during which people go through significant changes in their biology, cognition, and personalities.

Internet addiction alters adolescent brain function

As a result, the brain is particularly vulnerable to internet addiction-related urges, such as compulsive internet usage, cravings towards usage of the mouse or keyboard, and consuming media.”

The impact is similar to that resulting from drug use and gambling addiction.

Functions affected by a decline in functional connectivity include physical coordination, short-term memory, impulse control, attention span, decision-making, motivation, response to rewards, and processing information. Chang emphasized the potential negative behavioral and developmental changes that could impact adolescents’ lives. “They may struggle to maintain relationships and social activities, lie about online activity, and experience irregular eating and disrupted sleep,” he said.

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The findings add to growing concern about the impact of internet and smartphone use on children and young people. In the U.K., a committee of lawmakers recently suggested that a ban on under-16s using smartphones might be necessary to limit the potential damage. Irene Lee, senior author of the study, said, “There is no doubt that the internet has certain advantages.

However, when it begins to affect our day-to-day lives, it is a problem.”

Overall, this study underscores the need for parents and policymakers to monitor and manage internet usage among young people to mitigate potential negative impacts on their developing brains.


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