Internet addiction affects the intellectual abilities of teenagers

Internet addiction affects the intellectual abilities of teenagers

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    The impact of screens on children is being scrutinized by a host of experts around the world, with the aim of raising awareness among governments – and parents – of the importance of regulating their use. A team of researchers based in the United Kingdom went even further by evaluating the effects on the brain of internet addiction in adolescents. Verdict? This type of addiction could significantly affect some of their intellectual abilities, and more broadly their mental health.

    Sleep, body mass index, mental health… Scientific studies have been going on for several years to try to determine the effects that screens can have on populations, and in particular on children and adolescents. While most of them highlight their harmful effects, others are more nuanced, potentially making it difficult to implement specific actions intended to regulate screens for this young audience. New research carried out by scientists at University College London (UCL) this time focuses not on screens, but on the use of the internet, and more particularly on cyberdependence. Which could affect the brain of adolescents.

    An impact on attention, decision-making and impulsivity

    For the purposes of this work, the two main researchers, Max Chang and Irene Lee, analyzed no less than twelve neuroimaging studies – or brain imaging – involving adolescents suffering from internet addiction. The objective is obviously to observe the brain, and the possible changes induced by such an addiction, in this case the modifications in the connectivity between the brain networks which play an important role in behavior.

    Published in the journal PLOS Mental Health, this work suggests a disruption of signaling in brain regions involved in neural networks in Internet-addicted adolescents. In detail, this disturbance has been observed in particular when carrying out activities controlled by “the brain’s executive control network” – involving attention, planning, decision-making and impulsivity – in adolescents. Internet addicts compared to participants not suffering from this addiction.

    Does Internet addiction profoundly change the brain?

    Understanding how and where internet addiction affects functional connectivity in the adolescent brain and replicating functional magnetic resonance imaging studies with multiple populations can guide future comprehensive therapeutic and public health interventions.“, conclude the researchers in a press release.

    It remains that the latter themselves qualify the conclusions of their work: “Current responses only paint an unfinished picture that does not necessarily portray internet use as overwhelmingly positive or negative“.

    They believe that additional studies carried out on a larger panel of participants are confirm how internet addiction changes the way the brain controls behavior and, therefore, our general well-being“.