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You Can Become Addicted to the Internet

Internet addiction disorder (IAD) may be associated with abnormal white matter in the brain. The teen years are the time when many people become addicted to drugs--what about internet use? It turns out that teenagers who drink alcohol spend more time on their computers for recreational use, compared with their teens who don't drink.

The Science Daily website quotes researcher Jennifer Espstein as saying, "While the specific factors linking teenage drinking and computer use are not yet established, it seems likely that adolescents are experimenting with drinking and activities on the Internet. In turn, exposure to online material such as alcohol advertising or alcohol-using peers on social networking sites could reinforce teens' drinking." IAD isn't just a psychological problem--a study that used fMRI machines to map the brain found definite abnormalities in people who couldn't keep their fingers off the keyboard.

IAD is characterized by the impairment of white matter fibers connecting brain regions involved in emotional generation and processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control, suggesting that the addiction may share psychological and neural mechanisms with other types of substance addiction, such as alcoholism, drug addiction and gambling.

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