While this sentiment is clearly hyperbole, more and more people are becoming increasingly dependent on smartphones and other portable electronic devices for news, information, games, and even the occasional phone call.
A group of researchers from Seoul's Korea University carried out the study, which was led by neuroradiology professor Hyung Suk Seo.
MRS scans are used to track concentrations of biochemicals in the brain, and are often used to study changes wrought by brain tumors, strokes, mood disorders and Alzheimer's disease.
The study evaluated 19 young people with an average age of 15, who were diagnosed with an internet or smartphone addiction, compared to 19 healthy-controls. Twelve of the addicted youth were given 9 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy. Questions were based on the extent to which the use of Internet and smartphone impacts daily routines, social life, feelings, productivity and sleeping patterns.
MRS exams were performed on the addicted teenagers both prior to and following behavioral therapy, while for control patients, a single MRS study was carried out in order to measure the levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain that slows and inhibits signals, and glutamate-glutamine (Glx), a neurotransmitter that causes increases electrical excitement in neurons.
"There have been multiple studies published [that link] addiction to alcohol and other substances with chemical imbalances in different regions of the brain, but this is the first study I've read about internet addiction" that shows such a link, Wintermark told Live Science.
Kids who compulsively used the internet or fiddled with their phones tended to have increased neurotransmitter activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region tied to the brain's systems of behavior reward, control of inhibition and mood regulation, a team of South Korean researchers found. Too much of it may result in anxiety and drowsiness.
However, the study found that GABA to Glx ratios in them significantly decreased or normalized after cognitive behavioral therapy, said the study on a positive note.
As a result, researchers believe that the chemical imbalance that they observed in the young participants could help contribute to the way people understand addictions and treatments for it.
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