Here’s a question that will quickly help you figure out if you’re at risk of smartphone addiction:
How often do you check your smartphone in a day?
If it’s more than seven times in a 24 hour period and there’s no specific business-related reason, it’s very possible that you’re hooked.
Many teens and adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) struggle with smartphone addiction without being aware of it.
That fact should set off a few alarm bells for families of children and adults with ADHD.
A recent study carried out by the global technology firm Asurion found the average American checks his or her phone about 80 times a day – once every 12 minutes. And that figure was backed by a recent Pew Research study that found 46 percent of Americans said they “could not live without their smartphones.”
Moreover, a study presented on November 30, 2017 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smart phones and the internet.
The study suggested that smartphone addiction may actually cause the imbalance.
Neuroradiology Professor Hyung Suk Seo, MD at Korea University in Seol, South Korea, led a research team who used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to study the brains of teens addicted to smartphones and the internet.
MRS is a type of MRI that measures the brain’s chemical composition.
Nineteen adolescents (mean age 15.5, 9 males) diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction and 19 gender and age-matched healthy controls were involved in the study. The severity of the addiction was measured using standardized internet and smartphone addiction survey questionnaires.
Twelve of the addicted youths received nine weeks of a cognitive behavior therapy treatment (CBT) modified from a gaming addiction program.
MRS exams were performed on the addicted youths before and after the CBT, and once on the controls to measure levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain that slows or inhibits brain signals, and glutamate-glutamine (Glx), a neurotransmitter that causes neurons to become more electrically excited.
In previous studies, GABA has been shown to be involved in vision and motor control, and the regulation of brain functions, including anxiety.
The study found that in the smartphone and internet-addicted teens, the ratio of GABA to Glx was significantly increased in the anterior cingulate cortex, compared to the levels in healthy controls.
In addition, the ratios of GABA to creatinine and GAB to glutamate were significantly correlated to clinical scales of internet and smartphone addictions, depression and anxiety.
However, the good news is the GABA to Glx ratios in the addicted teens were significantly decreased, and in some were 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,” Dr. Seo said.
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