Internet Addiction Shares Neurological Deficits Found with Other Addictions

Although internet addiction is a relatively new phenomenon, it is receiving increasing attention as the number of young people with some form of internet addiction grows. Internet addiction is intriguing because it does not cause physiological and physical symptoms similar to those found in other addiction. Individuals with drug and alcohol addiction often display broad and similar symptoms of craving and compulsion. These addictions also cause specific physical and physiological damage that has not been shown to be evident across all forms of addiction. But one symptom present in a variety of addictions also appears to exist in those with internet addiction.

According to the results of a recent study led by Soon-Beom Hong of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne in Australia, adolescents with internet addiction appear to have reduced neural connectivity similar to impairments found in the brains of people addicted to heroin and cocaine. Hong chose to analyze several specific brain regions of 12 teenagers with internet addiction as they were in a resting state. The images were then compared to those of 11 non-internet addicted adolescents. The results revealed that the participants with internet addiction had decreased neural connectivity across several different regions of their brains. In fact, Hong looked at 90 different areas of the brain and found deficits in approximately 25% of those regions in the internet addicted teens.

This group of participants provided an opportunity to examine resting state neural connectivity without the contamination of drug use or psychological conditions that are often present in older addicted individuals. The parietal and frontal regions of the teens’ brains showed decreased connectivity which supports other studies showing similar reductions in adults with other forms of addiction. But because these adolescents’ brains were not impacted by drug use, the results of Hong’s study could be viewed as providing a unique and novel window into the neural deficits found in individuals with addiction. Hong added, “Our finding in internet addiction also supports the notion that decreased functional connectivity between frontal and parietal regions might be a common characteristic across different types of addiction.” Although that has not been established in this research, if clearly substantiated in future work, that particular neural deficit could be a potential indicator for those at risk for addiction.

Hong, S.-B., Zalesky, A., Cocchi, L., Fornito, A., Choi, E.-J., et al. (2013). Decreased functional brain connectivity in adolescents with internet addiction. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57831. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057831

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  • jerry


    April 24th, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    this sounds very dangerous.and even more so because not too many people see internet addiction as something that is harmful.yes they may know they are addicted,but will they take it as seriously as they would addiction to a substance?never.

    neither would those around them.if someone is addicted to a substance then people around would look to help or at least advise the person to seek help.but with internet addiction there is only frustration among those around as they do not get time,there is hardly any action towards helping the situation.and that is extremely addiction left unchecked can quickly amplify and hurt the person in a big way.

  • Jessica


    April 25th, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    I don’t think that this is an issue about different addictions behaving differently in the brain- this is about the fact that this addiction or any other does something that confuses the circuits a bit and makes normal neurological functioning non existent until the addiction is given the attention that it needs and the person who has it starts the process of receiving treatment. I realize that this manifests itself in many different ways, but at the core someone is looking for something in life that they are missing or that they feel like they are missing and it turns into an addiction that they don’t have any control over.

  • Jade


    April 25th, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    My husband he is so addicted to the internet that’s all he wants to do. Like me and the kids will go in the yard to play and he goes with us but won’t put down his phone cuz he’s looking at the internet. I’m just not sure what to do about it anymore cuz I love him and I know he loves us it’s just real hard.

  • PJ D

    PJ D

    April 25th, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    So fascinating that there is a physical component to this addiction. The brain actually changes due to be addicted to the internet. I guess I just thought it was more like people just don’t know how to entertain themselves for even one second anymore. Folks just can’t stand to be without some sort of external stimuli for any sustained amount of time. Maybe if more people knew their brains were actually changing they’d put down the computer or phone and start engaging with family and friends in real time rather than on social media sites or texting.

  • Raja


    April 25th, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    Internet addiction=heroin and cocaine addiction? Wow! Scary stuff!!

  • Winona


    April 25th, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    So, here’s a question:

    Can the neural connectivity grow back? If the kids (and adults) addicted to the internet become unaddicted, will their brains fix themselves?

    Very worried about the future. Very worried.

  • bess


    April 25th, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Oh yeah i just cannot WAIT to tell my TEENAGER bout this NEWS he gonna be so happy i been reading up on this and now i have good reason to tell him to GET OFF THAT COMPUTER. here i just thought it was video games that was so bad when i was right all along and its all that computer and phone nonsense i’m sure he be mad at me but i know it all for his own good. thank u so much for putting this up for me to find and read boy will he be surprised when he gets home TONIGHT!!!!!!!

  • alina


    April 25th, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    what bout those of us that spend all our working hours online?maybe not addicted but does constant use affect our brains too?if so,could there be a downside to all tech-related jobs out there?that would be bad because there aren’t really too many jobs that don’t require computer usage anymore.

  • Brent


    April 25th, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Again this is more of that kind of reserach that sounds great, but in all honesty how many people are going to have to money to do neurological studies on their kids to determine at a young age if they are going to be at risk for forming an addiction?

    it is time to look for things that are a little more realistic for a greater majority of people and I think that one of the best things that we can do is to implement programs that teach us all how to be better parents. It all starts at home, and you can’t tell me that good parenting skills can’t stop some of the things that kids get involved in, whether they are predisposed to do it or not.

    I think that many parents have been looking to too many other things to point the blame at when really, a lot of what is going on and going wrong lays squarely on us.

  • Thalia


    April 25th, 2013 at 11:28 PM

    Great! Just what we needed! As if technology invading our bedrooms in the form of TVs, laptops, phones and tablets was not enough now there are more things to worry about. My teenage children may well be at risk for this. What precautions can one take against this? Or are we all doomed?!

  • Tiffani


    April 29th, 2013 at 5:00 AM

    Wouldn’t you say that internet addiction is one of those addictions that is just not recognized as a real thing yet?

    I mean, I hear people just saying to turn off the computer. Yeah well, that’s about as easy for someone with this addiction to do as it is for someone who is an alcoholic to just stop drinking.

    If this is a real addiction then it needs to be treated as such and not simply marginalized.

  • Hed9


    May 23rd, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    im 24 years old internet addict. no matter how hard i try not to push the on button, i always go and push it. im able to sit in front of my notebook & surf online for weeks and months and years. im absolutely out of control, exhausted, out of mind and pathetic. i can’t focus. i can’t do the rights things and it’s real. the scariest part is, i kinda want to stay like this. because everytime i visit the real world, it’s disappointment. internet brings me freedom. in my own prison, i am free. i’ll go check youtube now.

  • Dariusz


    March 9th, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    “These addictions also cause specific physical and physiological damage” if you cant understand what he say then dont comment. Also look at limitation. In your knowledge i will be scare go to you on therapy in this article lack of knowledge is huge, brain constanly change one doctor very good explain this “However, imaging neuroscientist Karl Friston who helped pioneer the VBM technique, speaking to Scientific American, says gray matter shrinkage is not necessarily a bad thing. “The effect is quite extreme, but it’s not surprising when you think of the brain as a muscle,” says Friston, who was not involved in the study. “Our brains grow wildly until our early teens, then we start pruning and toning areas to work more efficiently. So these areas may just be relevant to being a good online gamer, and were optimized for that.”
    Read more at”
    what interesting the most study are from china where government want people work not sitting front of computer S
    I have frend who are internet addicted from 9 years (meeting only in his house) recently has neuroimages and he is healthy. To peoples who comments little hint this side earn money from addiction

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