"Abnormal White Matter" Found in Internet Addicts' Brains

By McCarton Ackerman 01/12/12

Internet junkies' brains apparently change in a similar way to those hooked on cocaine or meth.

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A new study claims that those suffering from internet addiction disorder (IAD) have abnormal white matter structure in the brain similar to that observed in those suffering from cocaine or crystal meth addiction. The study—led by Hao Lei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, and published in the journal PLoS One—reports that the altered brain matter led those with IAD to exhibit more limited emotional processing, poor decision making and compulsive-repetitive behaviors. The researchers hope that their findings can lead to a possible treatment. “Recent studies have shown that physical or pharmacological treatments may improve white matter integrity,” they write in the report. However, the study also acknowledged limitations, including a small sample size and self-reported IAD diagnoses. Internet addiction—alongside other compulsive addictions such as gambling—is being considered for addition to the 2013 edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.