MRIs reveal smartphone addiction physically changes brains

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screen time management
Is Screen Time doing enough to curb iPhone addiction?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Your iPhone addiction might be creating physical changes in your brain, according to a new study. Researchers looked into smartphone addiction and how it correlates to structural and functional changes in the brain.

They conducted MRI scans on 48 people, 22 of whom had smartphone addiction (SPA). The study found that SPA alters the brain in a way similar to what doctors see in drug addicts. The findings only get worse from there.

This is your brain on smartphone addiction

MRI
The blue area is the shape of the region in a non-addict. The red area is the brain region of a smartphone addict.
Photo: Addictive Behaviors

Smartphone addiction has become an increasing area of concern among health professionals over the last decade as the devices have pervaded every inch of our lives. The effects on children prove especially worrisome, as parents dole out smartphones to younger and younger kids. If the data in this latest study is accurate, it’s the first physical evidence that links smartphone use to physical changes in the brain.

MRI images taken by the researchers showed decreased gray matter volume in some key parts of the brain for people with SPA than for non-addicts. The insula cortex and temporal cortex were both found to be affected by SPA. The study also showed that people with SPA suffer from “reduced resting-state activity of the anterior cingulate cortex.”

The researchers from Heidelberg University called into question the safety of cellphone use.

“Given their widespread use and increasing popularity, the present study questions the harmlessness of smartphones, at least in individuals that may be at increased risk for developing smartphone-related addictive behaviors,” they wrote.

Is iPhone addiction a problem?

Apple’s own investors have called on the company to conduct studies on smartphone addiction among children. The company rolled out features like Screen Time to help users curb device use, but more changes are likely needed.

The German researchers published their study in the journal Addictive Behaviors earlier this month. It certainly won’t be the last bit of research done into how smartphones are messing up our brains.

Via: Daily Mail