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Study Shows Constant Smartphone Use Dramatically Alters Brain Chemistry #science #smartphone

Constant interruptions from alerts and messages on your smartphone can impact brain chemistry.

It can be hard to concentrate when you’re always being diverted by your phone. It’s a pattern that scientists say creates something they call the switch cost.

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Research shows constant interruptions can create a different chemistry in the brain.

“There’s this phenomenon they call switch cost that when there’s an interruption we switch away from the task that we were at and then we have to come on back. We think it interrupts our efficiency with our brains, by about 40 percent. Our nose is always getting off the grindstone, then we have to reorient ourselves,” said Dr. Scott Bea, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic.

The new reality for many is that technology has put the brain on high alert most of the time, waiting for the next notification. Doctors say when it happens, people can get little surges of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause the heart rate to jump, some people to get sweaty hands and muscles can get a little tight.

Being unable to check phones immediately can cause those feelings of anxiety to last until people are able to check their device. Doctors say breaking that pattern involves creating a new habit, which can take time.

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“Initially, when you start trying to stay away from the technology, or confine it, you’ll be a little uncomfortable, you’ll have that fear of missing out, or a little anxiety that something is getting past you, but with practice, your brain can get used to it,” said Bea.

Breaking the habit is also difficult because experts say there can be an addictive component to technology as the brain gets rewarded with constant updates and the behavior is repeated over and over.

Dr. Seo reported that the addicted teenagers had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia severity and impulsivity.

The researchers performed MRS exams on the addicted youth prior to and following behavioral therapy and a single MRS study on the control patients to measure levels of gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits or slows down brain signals, and glutamate-glutamine (Glx), a neurotransmitter that causes neurons to become more electrically excited. Previous studies have found GABA to be involved in vision and motor control and the regulation of various brain functions, including anxiety.

The results of the MRS revealed that, compared to the healthy controls, the ratio of GABA to Glx was significantly increased in the anterior cingulate cortex of smartphone- and internet-addicted youth prior to therapy.

Dr. Seo said the ratios of GABA to creatine and GABA to glutamate were significantly correlated to clinical scales of internet and smartphone addictions, depression and anxiety.

Having too much GABA can result in a number of side effects, including drowsiness and anxiety.

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Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 31st, 2018

 

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