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Study: Smartphone addiction linked to chemical imbalance in young brains

Study: Smartphone addiction linked to chemical imbalance in young brains
[Photo: Duel/Getty Images]

Drop your phone (unless it’s an iPhone X, which is too breakable to drop), because researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet.

Researchers from Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, pried 19 internet-addicted youths away from their smartphones long enough to study them with MRS machines, a type of MRI that measures the brain’s chemical composition. What they found is enough to make you want to drop the Animal Crossing for a few hours. Compared to the healthy controls, smartphone addicts had higher ratio of two brain chemicals: gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate-glutamine (Glx). GABA is meant to slow down brain signals while Glx causes neurons to get excited.

“GABA to Glx was significantly increased in the anterior cingulate cortex of smartphone- and internet-addicted youth prior to therapy,” says a release from the Radiological Society of North America.

While more study is needed, previous studies have found that GABA is involved in vision and motor control and the regulation of various brain functions, including anxiety, so it seems like a good chemical to have properly balanced. In their paper, which was presented at RSNA’s annual meeting, the researchers also reported that the addicted teenagers had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia severity, and impulsivity.ML