Internet addiction affects the brain like drugs

Internet users who become dependent on the web show signs of changes in the brain similar to that of alcoholics and cocaine addicts

Researchers comparing brain scans of young people with internet addictions have found damage to the white matter fibres connecting emotional processing, attention and decision making parts of the brain.

The team of Chinese scientists found similar impairments related to other addictions, including alcohol and drugs.

‘I have seen people who stopped attending university lectures, failed their degrees or their marriages broke down because they were unable to emotionally connect,’ says Henrietta Bowden Jones, from Imperial College London.

The research follows findings by the University of Worcester that suggest many internet users hear phantom vibrations because they are desperate to receive new messages.

As many as one in 10 internet users are thought to be addicted, becoming so absorbed in the web that they forget to eat and drink for prolonged periods of time.

‘The majority of people we see with serious internet addicition are gamers, people who spend long hours in roles in various games that cause them to disregard their obligations,’ says Ms Bowden Jones,

Modern life requires us to connect over the internet with regards to our jobs, and professional and social networking, but Ms Bowden Jones warns that regular use can quickly become obsessive.

‘The findings suggest that white matter integrity may serve as a potential new treatment target in internet addiction disorder,’ say the studyteam in the Public Library of Science One journal.

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