Does Addictive Internet Use Restructure the Brain?

Brain scans hint excessive time online is tied to stark physical changes in the brain

By Dave Mosher 

wow, world of warcraft, computer, games, brain, addictive, internet Image: dionhinchcliffe/Flickr

Kids spend an increasing fraction of their formative years online, and it is a habit they dutifully carry into adulthood. Under the right circumstances, however, a love affair with the Internet may spiral out of control and even become an addiction.

Whereas descriptions of online addiction are controversial at best among researchers, a new study cuts through much of the debate and hints that excessive time online can physically rewire a brain.

The work, published June 3 in PLoS ONE, suggests self-assessed Internet addiction, primarily through online multiplayer games, rewires structures deep in the brain. What’s more, surface-level brain matter appears to shrink in step with the duration of online addiction.

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