Smartphone Addiction is Leading to Imbalanced Brain Chemistry

Smartphone Addiction is Leading to Imbalanced Brain Chemistry

Researchers at Korea University revealed on December 6, 2017, that prolonged use of mobile devices could impact the chemical balance of human brain.

The research team led by Dr. Hyung Suk Seo at Korea University in Seoul used a scanning technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to evaluate the brains of 19 teenagers who were diagnosed with Internet or smartphone addiction. The results of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Team of researchers found that teenagers who compulsively used internet or smartphones tend to have elevated neurotransmitter activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is a region related to the behavior system of brain and it also controls inhibition and mood regulation

As compared with the control group, teens with internet and smartphone addiction showed a clear overabundance of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is 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. They were found in one region of the limbic system, the brain’s emotional control center.

According to Hyung Suk Seo, changes in the brain could also be linked to problems with processing information and emotions, anxiety, and fatigue. The teens who participated in Seo’s study went through standardized tests used to diagnose internet and smartphone addiction. These teenagers had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and impulsivity than the control group. The results of the magnetic resonance spectroscopy showed that, compared to the healthy controls, the ratio of GABA to Glx was significantly high in the anterior cingulate cortex of smartphone and internet addicted youth prior to therapy.

“The increased GABA levels and disrupted balance between GABA and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex may contribute to our understanding the pathophysiology of and treatment for addictions,” said Dr. Seo. The constant feeling of need to check some wireless device has created a society where people feel anxious or confused when electronically disconnected.

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