Internet addiction could cause damage to the brain similar to alcoholics and cocaine addicts, a Chinese study has said.
The internet addiction disorder (IAD) is becoming a serious mental health issue around the world wherein an individual have an inability to control his or her use of the Internet, which may eventually result in marked distress and functional impairments of general life such as academic performance, social interaction, occupational interest and behavioral problems.
The study, published in Plos One said, teenagers addicted to the internet have abnormal “white matter” in their brain in a similar way to people exposed in addictive substances such as alcohol and cocaine.
The “white matter” of the brain contain nerve fibers that increases the speed of transmission of all nerve signals to other parts of the brain.
The new study compared brain scans of 17 internet-addicted teenagers and 16 non-addicted individuals in China by using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technique to look at its effects on brain structure.
Scientists found out that those teens with IAD have abnormal “white matter” that connects the parts of the brain involved in emotions, decision making, and sef-control.
The researchers, led by Dr Hao Lei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, wrote in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE:
“Overall, our findings indicate that IAD has abnormal white matter integrity in brain regions involving in emotional generation and processing, executive attention, decision making and cognitive control. The results also suggest that IAD may share psychological and neural mechanisms with other types of substance addiction and impulse control disorders.”
However, a drugs expert has questioned the study, Fox News reports, saying that other stimulants might have contributed to the brain changes.
“The limitations of this study are that it is not controlled, and it’s possible that illicit drugs, alcohol or other caffeine-based stimulants might account for the changes. The specificity of ‘internet addiction disorder’ is also questionable,” said Professor Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia.