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Abusing the mobile phone causes chemical imbalances in …

December 2, 2017

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington DC (USA), 46% of the American population assures that they could not live without their mobile phones. A result that must be interpreted as an exaggeration but that denotes the growing dependence generated around these devices. But beware: the excessive use of mobile phones and the internet has consequences that go beyond the deterioration of sight. And it is that as a study led by researchers from the University of Korea in Seoul (South Korea) shows, abusing smartphones causes chemical imbalances in the brain, at least among young people.

Image by Burdun Iliya via Shutterstock

As Hyung Suk Seo, director of this research presented in the framework of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) that is being held in Chicago (USA) explains, “we need more studies to understand the clinical implications of our results, but we believe that the increase in GABA concentration in the anterior cingulate gyrus associated with addiction to mobiles and internet may be related to a functional loss of the integrity and regulation of the cognitive and emotional neural network » .

Unbalancing screens: The time that people spend interacting with our neighbors is less and less. And it is that this time is being reduced, if not directly devoured, by which we allocate to our mobiles and other electronic devices such as laptops and tablets. Very especially in the case of children, adolescents and young people. But does this abusive digital habit have any effect, either short-term or long-term, on the brain?

To answer this question, the authors carried out a study with 38 adolescents with an average age of 15.9 years, half of whom made normal use of their mobile phones (control group) and the other half had been diagnosed with mobile and internet addiction. And what they did was analyze their brains by means of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), an imaging test that enables the measurement of brain chemical composition.

The authors focused on the levels of two neurotransmitters, that is, two of the molecules that enable the transmission of information between neurons. Specifically, in γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), responsible for the inhibition or slowing down of brain signals, and in glutamate / glutamine (Glx), responsible for increasing the state of electrical excitation of neurons. And according to the results, the participants addicted to mobile phones and the internet showed, in comparison with those in the control group, an increase in the GABA / Glx ratio in the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain area that, in addition to being involved in the regulation of different autonomous functions (among others, heart rate and blood pressure), participates in the regulation of some rational cognitive functions (such as decision-making and emotions).

Keep reading: Abusing the mobile phone causes chemical imbalances in the brain of young people

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