Chinese researchers have compared the brain matter of two groups of young people. The first was comprised of teens addicted to the Internet, the second group was made up of teens who were not. What they discovered was a significant disparity in the amount of white matter density between the two groups.
“All the participants had a brain scan from which the researchers assessed the density and structure of the white matter,” reports Medical News Today. “White matter contains fibers that carry the signals various parts of the brain use to communicate with each another.”
When researchers compared white matter densities, they found that teens with more white matter scored better or ‘healthier’ in two behavioral tests. They concluded that Internet addiction is “characterised by impairment of white matter fibres connecting brain regions involved in emotional generation and processing, executive attention, decision making and cognitive control.”
Professor Gunter Schumann, chair in biological psychiatry at King’s College, told BBC News that he’s come across similar findings in the brain scans of video game addicts. “For the first time two studies show changes in the neuronal connections between brain areas as well as changes in brain functions in people who are frequently using the Internet or video games,” he said.
Hardcore gamers are more likely to become addicted to the Internet, according to Dr. Henrietta Bowden Jones, consultant psychiatrist at Imperial College in London. “The majority of people we see with serious Internet addiction are gamers – people who spend long hours in roles in various games that cause them to disregard their obligations,” Jones told The Independent. “I have seen people who stopped attending university lectures, failed their degrees or their marriages broke down because they were unable to emotionally connect with anything outside the game.”
According to The Independent, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of Internet users are unable to control their usage and are considered addicted. Considering how many people use the Internet, that’s a lot of addicts!
While not every child who uses the Internet frequently or enjoys online multiplayer video gaming is an addict in the making, studies like these suggest that at the very least parents should be monitoring their child’s use of this technology and step in when it is begins to interfere with their school work or real-world productivity. Even when you’re a kid, there have got to be limits.
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Image source: Neurocritic