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04-19 Brain chemical imbalances conspicuous in teens addicted to internet, finds study

Posted in Adolescent/Teens

Brain chemical imbalances conspicuous in teens addicted to internet, finds study

When the internet was first introduced to the world in 1991, no one had dreamt that one day it would go on to occupy such an important space in everyone’s lives. Today, for people of all groups, it is difficult to imagine anything without internet – from communicating and connecting with people to shopping and reading news. For teenagers, having an internet connection is about getting instant access to people and things around them. However, the relationship between internet and teens is not all positive. A recent study by a group of Korean scientists highlighted that young people dependent on their smartphones or the internet are afflicted with brain chemical imbalances and suffer from anxiety, insomnia, depression and impulsivity.

For the study presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s (RSNA) 103rd Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in November 2017, the researchers utilized magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to evaluate the immediate impact on the brains of teenagers with over reliance on smartphones and internet.

The research team examined 38 teenagers, aged 15-16 years. Out of them, 19 were detected with smartphone or internet addiction while the rest were deemed to be healthy and were included as members of the control group. The researchers then carried out standardized tests to determine the extent to which the teenagers were addicted. They were asked how their use of smartphones or the internet interfered with their daily activities, productivity, sleeping patterns and emotional/mental health. Twelve screen-addicted respondents also received cognitive behavioral therapy for nine weeks.

The researchers specifically looked for changes in gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that slows or speeds up signals of the brain and regulates anxiety. They also analyzed the effects on glutamate-glutamine (Glx) activity that causes neurons to become more electrically excited. Behavioral analysis of the affected teen respondents revealed that they were more likely to be affected with mental health problems. The study also revealed that such teens had a higher ratio of GABA to Glx compared to healthy controls.

Treating addiction problems among teens

Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) doesn’t list internet gaming as a mental disorder, it recommends it as a condition to be further studied. The importance of technology and internet cannot be undermined but its evil side cannot be overlooked. Excessive dependence has led to virtual addiction that has negative impact on brain and overall health.

Teens spending too much time on their phones and less time in outdoor activities or social interactions is becoming a cause of concern. Use of gadgets during bedtime interferes with sleep and makes one feel sluggish and tired the next day, which in turn hampers productivity and performance. The long-term consequences may arise with increasing use of social media. With time, the user may remain anxious due to the need of constantly checking news feed, exploring new things on the Web and making new friends.

Teen internet addiction is real and needs to be dealt with seriously. Sovereign Health’s rehab centers provide evidence-based treatment to young boys and girls to get control on their lives again. For more information on the best internet addiction rehab in your vicinity, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with an expert. Internet addiction in teens can be treated, if one seeks help at the right time.

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