Internet addiction may harm the teen brain, MRI study finds | CNN

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Teens who spend a lot of time on social media have complained of feeling like they can’t pay attention to more important things like homework or time with loved ones.

A new study may have captured this objectively, finding that for teens diagnosed with Internet addiction, signaling between brain regions important for controlling attention, working memory, and more was altered.

The results They are from a reviewpublished Tuesday in the journal PLOS Mental Health, of 12 neuroimaging studies of a few hundred adolescents ages 10 to 19 between 2013 and 2022.

“Behavioral addiction caused by excessive Internet use has become a source of increasing concern over the past decade,” the authors wrote in the study.

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Excessive Internet use can distract a teenager from both their responsibilities and other activities they enjoy, experts said.

The criteria for clinical diagnosis of Internet addiction in the included studies were “persistent preoccupation with the Internet, withdrawal symptoms when away from the Internet, and sacrificing relationships (for) time to spend on the Internet for a prolonged period ( e.g., 12 months),” Max Chang, first author of the study and outreach case manager at the nonprofit Peninsula Family Service in San Francisco, said by email. “The pattern of behavior results in deterioration or. significant anguish in the life of the individual.

Given the changing state of the brains of adolescents compared to that of adults, the authors felt it was vital to understand the impacts of Internet addiction on the brains of the adolescent participants.

When participants clinically diagnosed with Internet addiction engaged in activities governed by the brain’s executive function network (behaviors that require attention, planning, decision making, and impulse control), those brain regions showed substantial impairment in their ability to work together, compared to those of their peers without Internet addiction. Internet addiction. The authors believe that such changes in signals could suggest that these behaviors may become more difficult to perform, which could influence development and well-being.

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“While this article presents a simple systematic review suggesting that there are associations between functional connectivity in the brain and Internet ‘addiction’, there are a number of fundamental limitations to keep in mind that are critical to any interpretation,” said the Dr. David Ellis, a behavioral scientist at the Institute for Digital Behavior and Security at the University of Bath, said in a press release.

“You can’t extract causes and effects from these studies,” said Ellis, who was not involved in the study. “Second, the focus on functional connectivity comes at the expense of any criticism of the key measure of interest. Specifically, Internet “addiction,” which was initially evoked by (psychiatrist) Ivan K. Goldberg in 1995 as a joke.

“Today, the conceptualization and measurement of Internet ‘addiction’ is not universally accepted and certainly cannot be diagnosed using the survey instruments used in the studies included as part of the review,” Ellis added. “Likewise, the enormity of activities that the Internet immediately enables makes this definition somewhat redundant.”

In the United States, Internet addiction is not included in the DSM-V: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disordersthe standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the US. However, it lists internet gaming disorder. All of the studies the authors reviewed were conducted in Asia and consisted primarily of male participants. Porcelain was the first country declare Internet addiction a “public health crisis.”

“These definitions, despite being widely criticized, also tend to divert attention away from genuine harm online and toward a conclusion that suggests removing technology from people’s lives will be helpful,” Ellis said. “There has been no strong evidence to suggest that eliminating the Internet brings tangible benefits.”

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Additionally, all of the studies were conducted at one point in time, said Dr. Eva Telzer, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the study.

“Since there is no longitudinal data,” Telzer said, “it is quite possible that adolescents who have underlying differences in brain connectivity patterns are more vulnerable to developing Internet addiction.”

If Internet addiction is what caused the disruption in the participants’ brain signals, the reason may have to do with neural pathways related to addiction, said Dr. Smita Das, an addiction psychiatrist and associate clinical professor of psychiatry. and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medicine in California. Das was not involved in the study.

The functional connectivity patterns in the participants’ brains, in fact, match those seen in people with substance addictions, said Dr. Caglar Yildirim, associate professor of computer science at the Khoury School of Computer Science in Northeastern University in Boston. Yildirim was not involved in the study.

“Overall, the mechanisms underlying Internet addiction look more like an emerging pattern than a finished image,” Chang said. “A lot of causality between what happens in the brain and what is shown through behavior is still being understood. From now on, observation through biomarkers such as functional connectivity helps close that gap.”

If you’re wondering if your teen is struggling with Internet addiction, behaviors like withdrawing from relationships are a telltale sign, Chang said.

“Like substance disorders and gambling, Internet addiction rewires the brain, making it more difficult to resist Internet-related stimuli,” he added. “However, unlike gambling or substance use, the Internet is an important part of our lives. Balancing the usefulness and dangers of the Internet is a very crucial area in the future of adolescent development.”

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Find what keeps your teen off the Internet and help them do it more, Yildirim suggested.

You can also talk to your child’s doctor to see if behavioral strategies may work, Das suggested. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and motivational interviewing are helpful. The latter, which had its origin in the field of addiction treatment, It is a method of counseling which aims to increase the patient’s motivation and commitment to behavior change by provoking and exploring the patient’s own reasons for wanting a change.

In severe cases, a psychiatrist may suggest medications to treat certain types of technology addiction, he added.

READ MORE: How to know if you have a phone addiction and 12 ways to address it

“In addition to treating Internet addiction, there may be other underlying mental health conditions that also need to be paid attention to,” Das said. “Finally, some of the preventative measures we recommend include limiting screen time, taking breaks, and avoiding fatal scrolling.”

Technology addictions have become prevalent enough that the American Psychiatric Association is including it as a topic in its 2023-2024 presidential initiative, said Das, immediate past chair of the APA council on addictions.

“Because we know that families are desperate for help and confused about the science,” Das said, “we developed several resources, many of which They are on the APA website.”

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