Internet-addiction and reduced functional brain connectivity in youngsters

Network of decreased brain functional connectivity in adolescents with internet addiction (Credit: PLoS ONE)
Network of decreased brain functional connectivity in adolescents with internet addiction (Credit: PLoS ONE)

Researchers have found the reduced functional brain connectivity in internet-addicted youngsters.

PLoS ONE published this research.

They worked with functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) on cortico-striatal connection in the brain of 12 participants, who were diagnosed with internet addiction, and 11 healthy participants. Cortico-striatal circuitry in the brain is associated with the usual addiction related disorders.

Researchers found decreased functional connectivity between frontal and parietal regions of the brain. They found about 24% of reduced connections between the subcortical regions and frontal regions while nearly 27% of reduced connections between the subcortical regions and parietal cortices as compared to the healthy participants. Based on these findings, researchers are of the opinion that decreased functional connectivity between the frontal and parietal regions of the brain could also be found in the different types of addiction.

“Internet addiction is associated with a widespread and significant decrease of functional connectivity in cortico-striatal circuits, in the absence of global changes in brain functional network topology.” Researchers noted.

Researchers wrote that dopamine could be an important chemical in the brain about the functional connectivity differences.

Researchers in this study worked on male participants. However, further research can be done on the differences of the addiction-related consequences on the brain of different genders.

“We may test a hypothesis that structural differences in the brain of men and women would affect the function (e.g., addiction-related symptoms or behaviors) in different manners when they get addicted.” Prof. Soon-Beom Hong, first author of the paper, told SayPeople.com in an email interview.

“Another possibility is that, when men and women get addicted, they may show different clinical features.

“For example, when they get addicted to the “internet”, men may favor online gaming and women may favor social networking.

“If this is plausible, then we may expect different fMRI findings. But we’ll need to question whether the difference is due to gender or other factors.” Soon-Beom Hong added.

Reference:

Hong, S., Zalesky, A., Cocchi, L., Fornito, A., Choi, E., Kim, H., Suh, J., Kim, C., Kim, J., & Yi, S. (2013). Decreased Functional Brain Connectivity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction PLoS ONE, 8 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057831

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  • Joel

    This study is quite compelling, but I cant say I wouldn’t expect something like this. It has been known that the internet and it’s addicting properties were not for the better of children as well as adults these days. But what is really interesting about this study is that the Pariental lobe( somatosensory information a.k.a. touch, temp., pressure, and muscle and joint) is disconnected from the Frontal lobe( planning and voluntary actions) based upon the addiction to the internet. I am interested in what that means more importantly for the Pariental lobe because the frontal disconnect makes sense – that the planning and voluntary processing center could be inhibited by the addiction…but why is the disconnect affecting the touch? I would like to know more in depth about this study as I am intrigued by the potential this study has unveiled.