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Research Study Finds Addiction in Internet Use

Scientists have found a connection between Internet usage and certain addictive behaviors like withdrawal and loss of control.

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By Shawn Dwyer

12/24/13

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A new exploratory study conducted by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Duke University Medical Center, and the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences has determined that young adults who heavily use the Internet might also show signs of addiction.

The study was presented last week at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Advanced Networks and Telecommunications Systems in Chennai, India. It followed some 69 college-age students over the course of two months after participants filled out a 20-question survey designed to measure how much of a problem they had with using the Internet. The purpose of the survey was to determine identifying markers such as introversion, withdrawal, and loss of control.

Researchers then tracked their Internet usage and divided it into four categories: gaming, chatting, browsing, and social networking. They found that introversion was closely related to gaming and chatting; craving and withdrawal was associated with gaming and file downloading; and loss of control was tied to gaming. “The findings provide significant new insights into the association between Internet use and addictive behaviour," said Dr Sriram Chellappan, an assistant professor at Missouri University and the lead researcher of the study. Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke, further elaborated on the findings. "About 5 to 10 percent of all Internet users appear to show web dependency, and brain imaging studies show that compulsive Internet use may induce changes in some brain reward pathways that are similar to that seen in drug addiction," said Doraiswamy.

The study's authors were quick to point out that the study was merely exploratory and did not establish a cause and effect relationship between the Internet and addiction. They also noted that those test subjects who showed problems with Internet usage may have also suffered from other psychological disorders, a factor that was not included in the study.

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