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Study links internet addiction to brain changes

Study links internet addiction to brain changes

Addiction Brain

A recent study suggests that young people with internet addiction experience changes in brain chemistry that can lead to further addictive behaviors. The study, published in PLOS Mental Health, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the brains of adolescents and found increased activity in specific regions during rest and decreased connectivity in areas associated with active thinking, impacting memory and decision-making. These findings indicate that internet addiction affects the neural networks in the brains of young people, possibly leading to addictive behaviors and various behavioral changes.

These changes are linked to mental health, development, intellectual ability, and physical coordination. The researchers reviewed 12 previous studies involving 237 young individuals, aged 10 to 19, who had a formal diagnosis of internet addiction between 2013 and 2023. According to a survey this year, almost half of British teenagers reported feeling addicted to social media.

Internet addiction impacts adolescent brains

The study’s lead author, Max Chang, an MSc student at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (GOS ICH), stated that the adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to internet addiction-related urges. These urges include compulsive internet usage, cravings for using the mouse or keyboard, and consuming media.

Adolescence is a critical period when significant changes occur in biology, cognition, and personality. Chang noted that adolescents suffering from internet addiction might struggle to maintain relationships and social activities, lie about their online activity, and experience irregular eating and disrupted sleep. He expressed hope that the findings would enable early signs of internet addiction to be treated effectively through therapy.

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He also emphasized the importance of educating parents about internet addiction as a preventive measure from a public health perspective. Chang remarked, “Parents who are aware of the early signs and onset of internet addiction will more effectively handle screen time, impulsivity, and minimize the risk factors surrounding internet addiction.”

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