Korea University Research Team in Seoul, South Korea Uses MRS Technology,  to Gain Insight Into The Brain Composition of Smartphone Addicts


Orange County, CA - January 18th 2018 -  According to a study presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in December 2017, smartphones are responsible for an imbalance in the brain chemistry incessant users. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 46 percent of young Americans say they “could not live without” their smartphones. Although a clear exaggeration, the statement highlights the phone dependency young Americans have on their devices for a plethora of information- news, games, and social media.

The research team based out of Korea University in Seoul, South Korea used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) technology, a form of MRI, to gain insight into the brain composition of smartphone addicts. The study was conducted over the course of nine weeks consisting of cognitive behavioral therapy derived from a video game addicts program. The research team studied 9 males and 10 females averaging at 15 years of age diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction, this group was then matched with a control group of 19 healthy patients. Standard addiction tests were administered with questions focusing on the extent of internet and smartphone use and its effects on daily routines, social life, productivity, sleeping patterns and feelings.

Smartphones Linked to Chemical Imbalances in Teen Brains

Hyung Suk Seo, M.D., professor of neuroradiology at Korea University and leader of the study reported that the addicted teenagers had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsivity. “The higher the score, the more severe the addiction,” Seo said. The research team preformed MRS scans prior to and after behavioral therapy sessions on both groups to measure levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that slows down brain signals, and glutamate-glutamine (Glx), a neurotransmitter that causes neurons excitement, in the anterior cingulate cortex of all patients.

Studies have proven that possession of mass quantities of GABA can result in numerous side effects including drowsiness and anxiety. Seo said the ratios of GABA to creatine, a nitrogenous acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates, and GABA to Glx showed significant correlation to clinical scales of internet and smartphone addictions, depression and anxiety. However, the ratio of GABA to Glx in the addicted youth group recessed dramatically after repetitive sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy and in some instances normalized.

“The increased GABA levels and disrupted balance between GABA and glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex may contribute to our understanding the pathophysiology of and treatment for addictions,” Seo said. However, more research is needed to understand the clinical implications of the team’s findings.


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