Smartphone Addiction Causes Chemical Imbalance In Brain, Says Study

Today in this generation, we can find many people glued to their smartphone, every time and everywhere – whether they’re eating, walking, driving, and even watching movies in theaters. One of them might be ourselves. No matter, it has become more of a necessity than a luxury, but a recent study might make people think about ditching their smartphones altogether.

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A study conducted by the researchers at Korea Universty has revealed that prolonged use of mobile devices could impact the chemical balance of people’s brain.

The team, led by Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, with the help of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS – a type of MRI that measures the brain’s chemical composition), examined a group of smartphone – and internet – addicted teenagers, to gain a unique insight into their brain’s chemistry. There were 9 males and 10 females in the group having 15.9 years as the mean age. Out of the 19 addicted youth, 12 were given cognitive behavioral therapy that went for 9 months. Researchers then used standardized internet and smartphone addiction tests to measure the severity of internet addiction. Multiple questions were put to them to analyze how internet and smartphone use affected their daily routines, social life, productivity, sleeping patterns, and feelings.

According to Dr. Seo, the higher the score, the more severe the addiction. He reported that the addicted teenagers had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsivity. This is due to an imbalance of brain chemicals including GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) and Glx (Glutamate-glutamine). GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits or slows down brain signals, and Glx is a neurotransmitter that causes neurons to become more electrically excited.

Having too much GABA can result in a number of side effects, including drowsiness and anxiety.

“The increased GABA levels and disrupted the balance between GABA and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex may contribute to our understanding the pathophysiology of and treatment for addictions,” Seo noted.

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

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