Study Finds that Internet Addiction in Adolescents Can Lead to Changes in their Brain Connectivity

A study published in PLOS Mental Health says that use of the internet is connected with brain development in adolescents. Adolescence is an important period of development in an individual’s life where they go through different biological, social, physical and cognitive changes. The aim of this study was to find out how internet addiction can take part in functional connectivity of an adolescent brain. Meta analysis, a technique used to derive results from multiple scientific studies, was conducted for this study.

For this analysis, databases from PubMed and PsycINFO were studied which involved clinical diagnosis of internet addiction between adolescents from ages 10 to 11. The study included adolescents with internet addiction, using imaging techniques like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), peer reviewed publications and studies between January 2013 to April 2024. After going through 238 studies, the researchers selected 12 studies which were primarily from Asian countries like Indonesia, China, Korea, etc. and had an average of 12 to 31 participants.

The study found out that default mode networks (DMN) and reward networks are the reasons for altered connectivity in adolescents with internet addiction. Posterior cingulate, an important part of DMN, showed connectivity patterns with adolescents and internet addiction. The executive control network (ECN) is responsible for cognitive responses that showed reductions in functional connectivity of adolescents. The salience network which identifies and responds to important stimuli showed moderate decline in connectivity. This shows the adolescents have a hard time in managing their attention but they respond to internet cues effectively.

The study also found out that there is also a connection between internet addiction and other forms of addiction like gambling and drugs. The lead author of this study said that adolescents who are diagnosed with internet addiction can also get affected in their development and behaviors. There are many underlying reasons behind internet addiction and we need to know them first if we need to work on adolescents with internet addiction.

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