Internet gaming addiction "changes the brain"

Today’s copy of UK newspaper The Independent carries word of new research that suggests an addiction to the internet and online gaming could actually alter the brain.

Researchers used MRI scanner to examine the brains of adolescents who spent excessive amount of time online, often playing online games.

These images suggested that subjects suffered an impairment of the brain in areas that involve the processing of emotions, attention and decision making. The changes were similar to those observed in alcoholics or drug addicts.

"The majority of people we see with serious internet addiction are gamers – people who spend long hours in roles in various games that cause them to disregard their obligations,” consultant psychiatrist at Imperial College London Henrietta Bowden Jones stated.

I have seen people who stopped attending university lectures, failed their degrees or their marriages broke down because they were unable to emotionally connect with anything outside the game.

We are doing it because modern life requires us to link up over the net in regard to jobs, professional and social connections – but not in an obsessive way. When someone comes to you and says they did not sleep last night because they spent 14 hours playing games, and it was the same the previous night, and they tried to stop but they couldn’t – you know they have a problem. It does tend to be the gaming that catches people out."

It is estimated that between five and ten per cent of internet users could be addicted.

Sadly, the paper lets itself down with one or two sweeping generalisations: The majority are games players who become so absorbed in the activity they go without food or drink for long periods and their education, work and relationships suffer.”

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