News | Mobile Devices | January 11, 2018

Smartphone Addiction Creates Imbalance in Brain

Young people addicted to smartphones have imbalanced brain chemistry, study says

Smartphone Addiction Creates Imbalance in Brain
Smartphone Addiction Creates Imbalance in Brain

 The areas under the GABA and glutamine+glutamate peaks at 3.01 and 3.8 ppm (red lines) were measured by fitting to double and single Gaussian functions, respectively. Image courtesy of Hyung Suk Seo, M.D.

January 11, 2018 – Researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), Nov. 26-Dec. 1 in Chicago.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 46 percent of Americans say they could not live without their smartphones. 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.

Along with a growing concern that young people, in particular, may be spending too much time staring into their phones instead of interacting with others, come questions as to the immediate effects on the brain and the possible long-term consequences of such habits.

Hyung Suk Seo, M.D., professor of neuroradiology at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, and colleagues used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to gain unique insight into the brains of smartphone- and internet-addicted teenagers. MRS is a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that measures the brain’s chemical composition.

The study involved 19 young people (mean age 15.5, 9 males) diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction and 19 gender- and age-matched healthy controls. Twelve of the addicted youth received nine weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, modified from a cognitive therapy program for gaming addiction, as part of the study.

Researchers used standardized internet and smartphone addiction tests to measure the severity of internet addiction. Questions focused on the extent to which internet and smartphone use affects daily routines, social life, productivity, sleeping patterns and feelings.

“The higher the score, the more severe the addiction,” Seo said.

Seo reported that the addicted teenagers had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsivity.

The researchers performed MRS exams on the addicted youth prior to and following behavioral therapy and a single MRS study on the control patients to measure levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits or slows down brain signals, and glutamate-glutamine (Glx), a neurotransmitter that causes neurons to become more electrically excited. Previous studies have found GABA to be involved in vision and motor control and the regulation of various brain functions, including anxiety.

The results of the MRS revealed that, compared to the healthy controls, the ratio of GABA to Glx was significantly increased in the anterior cingulate cortex of smartphone- and internet-addicted youth prior to therapy.

Seo said the ratios of GABA to creatine and GABA to glutamate were significantly correlated to clinical scales of internet and smartphone addictions, depression and anxiety.

Having too much GABA can result in a number of side effects, including drowsiness and anxiety.

More study is needed to understand the clinical implications of the findings, but Seo believes that increased GABA in the anterior cingulate gyrus in internet and smartphone addiction may be related to the functional loss of integration and regulation of processing in the cognitive and emotional neural network.

The good news is GABA to Glx ratios in the addicted youth significantly decreased or normalized after cognitive behavioral therapy.

“The increased GABA levels and disrupted balance between GABA and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex may contribute to our understanding the pathophysiology of and treatment for addictions,” Seo said.

Co-authors are Eun-Kee Jeong, Ph.D., Sungwon Choi, Yunna Kwon, Hae-Jeong Park, and InSeong Kim.

For more information: www.rsna.org

Related Content

Key RSNA 2017 Study Presentations, Trends and Video 

Related Content

RSNA Study Shows Real-Time Indicator Improves Mammographic Compression
News | Mammography | December 12, 2018
Sigmascreening recently announced that more than 100,000 women have had mammography exams with the Sensitive Sigma...
Canon Aquilion One CT Helps Gates Vascular Institute Adhere to New Stroke Guidelines
News | Computed Tomography (CT) | December 12, 2018
In stroke, time saved on imaging is time gained in the treatment window. The recently updated guidelines from the...
Youth Football Changes Nerve Fibers in Brain

Statistically significant clusters (red-colored) showing group differences (Control vs. Football) in white matter strain along the primary (F1) and secondary (F2) fibers. While body of corpus callosum (BBC) showed relative shrinkage in Football group, the other clusters showed relative stretching of fibers. PCR: Posterior Corona Radiata, PLIC: Posterior Limb of Internal Capsule, SCR: Superior Corona Radiata, SLF: Superior Longitudinal Fasciculus, SCC: Splenium of Corpus Callosum. Image courtesy of Kim et al.

News | Neuro Imaging | December 07, 2018
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans show repetitive blows to the head result in brain changes among youth football...
Siemens Healthineers Debuts Magnetom Altea 1.5T MRI Scanner
Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | December 06, 2018
During the 104th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), Nov. 25-30...
GE Healthcare Unveils New Applications and Smart Devices Built on Edison Platform
Technology | Artificial Intelligence | December 05, 2018
GE Healthcare recently announced new applications and smart devices built on Edison – a platform that helps accelerate...
NeuroLogica and MaxQ AI Announce Distribution Agreement
News | Stroke | November 30, 2018
Clinical diagnostics intelligence platform company MaxQ AI and Samsung NeuroLogica announced a distribution agreement...
Snoring Poses Greater Cardiac Risk to Women
News | Women's Health | November 29, 2018
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and snoring may lead to earlier impairment of cardiac function in women than in men,...
Vital Showcases Enterprise Imaging Advances at RSNA 2018

Global Illumination from Vital Images

News | Enterprise Imaging | November 28, 2018
Vital, a Canon Group company, will highlight the latest additions to its enterprise imaging portfolio at the 2018...
Artificial Intelligence May Help Reduce Gadolinium Dose in MRI

Example of full-dose, 10 percent low-dose and algorithm-enhanced low-dose. Image courtesy of Enhao Gong, Ph.D.

News | Contrast Media | November 27, 2018
Researchers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce the dose of a contrast agent that may be left behind in...