Researchers have revealed that excessive use of smartphone can hamper the mental ability. Pathological internet use has been linked to depression in teens and it may even shrink gray matter.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 73 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and 92 percent of them say that they go online every single day.
In the study, researchers examined the brains of 19 internet and smartphone-addicted teenagers and 19 nonaddicted teenagers using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a form of MRI that can reveal changes in the chemical composition of the brain.
Researchers used standardized internet and smartphone addiction tests to measure the severity of internet addiction. Questions focused on the extent to which internet and smartphone use affect daily routines, social life, productivity, sleeping patterns and feelings.
Compared with the control group, the teens with internet and smartphone addiction showed a clear overabundance of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in one region of the limbic system, the brain’s emotional control center.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it blocks nerve cells from firing. The increased presence of GABA can result in the number of side effects such as anxiety and drowsiness.
The researcher hypothesizes that “GABA levels in the anterior cingulate cortices of youths with a smartphone or internet addiction could be associated with damaged cognitive and emotional processing in the brain.”
Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, of Korea University, warns that there’s more danger in this addiction than just the potential of wasting a lot of time sharing memes and viral videos.
But there’s also good news; the imbalance is reversible in several weeks using a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.
The researchers presented the results of their study at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held in Chicago, IL.