The Radiological Society of North America found that smartphone addiction can lead to severe brain changes in young people. The findings were presented Nov. 30 at the organization’s annual meeting.
According to Pew Research Center’s data, 46 percent of people in the U.S. admit they have a smartphone addiction. These people use their handsets on a daily basis to stay in touch with friends via social media and messaging services, to check the news, search for information, or gaming.
Yet, young people face the greatest risk as more and more studies have shown. Kids and teens tend to spend more time on their smartphones than meeting with their peers in person.
Researchers found that such behavior can lead to long-term consequences in the brain chemistry.
Lead author Hyung Suk Seo and his team based their research on MRIs of the brains of smartphone addicts. The magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) they used in the research revealed the tiniest changes in the brain’s chemistry.
Smartphone Addiction Alters the Brain
The trial involved 19 volunteers with the average age of 15.5. The participants had been diagnosed with smartphone and/or Internet addiction. A dozen of volunteers agreed to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy for nine weeks after the brain screening.
Researchers used questionnaires to assess the severity of addiction. Some of the questions sought to shed light on the effects of smartphone addiction on participants’ social lives, academic performance, productivity, mood, and sleep.
Those that scored the highest in those tests were the most hooked.
Tests revealed that teens diagnosed with addiction were more likely to be affected by anger management issues, depression, sleep deprivation, and anxiety.
When the research team looked for any changes in the brain, they found high levels of two neurotransmitters – the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate-glutamine (Glx) – in the addicted youth. After therapy, the levels went back to normal.
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