Brain Abnormalities Tied To Internet Addiction

By Shawn Dwyer 05/05/14

A new review of over a dozen research studies pointed to growing evidence that addiction to the web can cause changes in the brain.

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According to a recent review of 13 published articles, internet addiction can lead to brain abnormalities, especially in teens, by causing changes in blood flow. The results of the review were presented at this year’s annual meeting at the American Psychiatric Association in New York.

"Increased blood flow is actually seen in the areas of the brain involving reward and pleasure centers, and decreased blood flow is observed in areas involved in hearing and visual processing," said Dr. Sree Jadapalle, a psychiatry resident at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.

Despite Internet addiction disorder (IAD) not being classified as an official mental disorder, Jadapelle noted that it affects 23.6 percent of American adolescents. “That's actually more than alcohol and illicit drug use disorders,” she said.

The review showed that IAD does exhibit the same symptoms as other addictions, like loss of control, preoccupation, withdrawal, changes in mood, and negative consequences on job, academic, and social performance. IAD also can lead to other mental conditions including depression, ADHD, and suicidal thoughts.

"It's important for us to study the effects of the connectedness that we experience, especially the effects on younger people," said Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, CEO of the Brian and Behavior Research Foundation in New York. "There may be positive effects of the connectedness, and we want to study that, too,” said Borenstein.

Despite his interest in the review, Borenstein was quick to point out that the “Internet is here to stay.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.