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Can Addiction to Smartphone Physically Change the Size of Your Brain?

Date : Mar 04, 2020

Author : DR A Zayed

As much as helpful and fun are smartphones seem, it is no secret that they are quite addictive as well. With all of the social media apps, games, and whatnot, it is hard to put your smartphone down. However, we do not stop to think about all of the negative things that come from this smartphone experience.

There has been an actual medical term that is used to refer to smartphone addiction – nomophobia. Nomophobia refers to the actual fear that we are dealing with having been left without our smartphone by our side.

Smartphone addiction has been linked to various negative effects that look like those caused by actual drug addiction. The list would include increased depression and loneliness, anxiety, increased stress levels, sleep issues, and even poor concentration and memory. Now, a study done by the researchers at Heidelberg University in Germany has revealed that the negative effects of smartphone addiction do not stop there. They go even further, causing actual physical changes inside our brain.

Smartphone addiction linked to physical changes of the brain

We were not joking when we said earlier that smartphone addiction looks like an actual drug addiction. The negative effects that we mentioned before are not the only ones to be expected to occur due to existing smartphone addiction. Actual physical changes in the brain develop as well. These changes, as the German researchers have revealed, are referring to the size of our brain.

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with Smartphones

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with Smartphones

Case Study 1

The study, which was done at Heidelberg University, examined the MRI scans of 48 participants in total. Twenty-two of them have been struggling with known smartphone addiction, while the rest 26 participants were not. The results, which were later published in Elsevier, demonstrated noticeable changes in the size and shape of the brains of those with smartphone addiction. The changes are particularly noticeable in the gray matter of the brain.

Since the grey matter is the actual center associated with many important brain functions such as speech, hearing, memory, muscle control, etc. changes in these brain functions are expected to develop as well. These changes would be, as expected, negative and would reflect poorly on the individual’s cognitive functions.

And although the researchers are still unable to tells us exactly why these changes are happening when there is no chemical such as cocaine or any other drug, for that matter, being involved, what we do know is enough for us to question our decision in terms of how long we spend on our smartphones, browsing on the Internet.

Case Study 2

Previously a similar study was conducted back in 2013. This study, however, looked at the negative effects of cocaine addiction, among other drug addiction types, in terms of the potential physical changes in the brain. The results talked about the same physical changes in the size and shape of the gray matter of the brain, like the ones caused by smartphone addiction.

Yet another study, titled “The World Unplugged”, has demonstrated the similarities, in terms of withdrawal symptoms and signs, between a cocaine and smartphone addiction. When college-students volunteers were asked to spend 24 hours without their smartphone, they showed clear withdrawal symptoms like the ones caused when one discontinues the use of cocaine.

Conclusion

So now we have a proof that speaks of both the mental and the physical changes that are happening in the brain due to smartphone addiction and what happens when we get away from our smartphones and the Internet in general for longer than a couple of hours. It is safe to say that these results are quite frightening, and they should serve us as an example of what we are not supposed to be doing to our brains and with that, to our overall happiness, health, and life.

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