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How Smartphone Addiction Changes the Brain

You may have heard the story of the girl who accidentally walked off a jetty while texting – and was rescued still clutching her phone. Yes, smartphone addiction is real. And a new study presented to the Radiological Society of North America has found it can actually cause a brain chemistry imbalance in young people.
The study, led by a team of researchers at the Korea University in Seoul, found that young adults (with an average age of 15.5) with a diagnosed smartphone addiction had an imbalanced ratio of GABA (a neurotransmitter that slows or stops brain signals) and Gix (glutamate-glutamine – a neurotransmitter that activates neurons).

How was the discovery made?

A group of 19 young adults took part in the survey. After measuring their addiction score, the researchers performed MRS exams. This was done before and after the participants had behavioural therapy. A control group was also studied.
The MRS exams were used to measure the Gix and GABA, which in the past were shown to help regulate brain functions such as anxiety and depression – as well as sight and motor control.
Interestingly, the participants with a smartphone or Internet addiction had a higher ratio of the neurotransmitters. This can cause heightened anxiety, depression and drowsiness.
"The increased GABA levels and disrupted balance between GABA and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex may contribute to our understanding the pathophysiology of and treatment for addictions," said Dr Hyung Suk Seo
from the Korea University. 

How to combat smartphone addiction

Like all addictions, Internet and smartphone addiction – especially in young people – is best approached with professional treatments. A counsellor or other therapist can be a good starting point to help break the cycle of addiction.

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