Current Psychiatry Reviews
Volume 8 Issue 4 ISSN: 1573-4005
Internet Addiction: A Brief Summary of Research and Practice
by Hilarie Cash, Ph.D., Cosette Rae, MSW, Ann H. Steel, MD, MA, Alexander Winkler
Problematic computer use is a growing social issue which is being debated worldwide. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) ruins lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems. Surveys in the United States and Europe have indicated alarming prevalence rates between 1.5 and 8.2% . There are several reviews addressing the definition, classification, assessment, epidemiology, and co-morbidity of IAD [2-5], and some reviews [6-8] addressing the treatment of IAD. The aim of this paper is to give a preferably brief overview of research on IAD and theoretical considerations from a practical perspective based on years of daily work with clients suffering from Internet addiction. Furthermore, with this paper we intend to bring in practical experience in the debate about the eventual inclusion of IAD in the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
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Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder
Recent studies suggest that internet addiction disorder (IAD) is associated with structural abnormalities in brain gray matter. However, few studies have investigated the effects of internet addiction on the microstructural integrity of major neuronal fiber pathways, and almost no studies have assessed the microstructural changes with the duration of internet addiction.
We investigated the morphology of the brain in adolescents with IAD (N = 18) using an optimized voxel-based morphometry (VBM) technique, and studied the white matter fractional anisotropy (FA) changes using the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) method, linking these brain structural measures to the duration of IAD. We provided evidences demonstrating the multiple structural changes of the brain in IAD subjects. VBM results indicated the decreased gray matter volume in the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the supplementary motor area (SMA), the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the cerebellum and the left rostral ACC (rACC). DTI analysis revealed the enhanced FA value of the left posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) and reduced FA value in the white matter within the right parahippocampal gyrus (PHG). Gray matter volumes of the DLPFC, rACC, SMA, and white matter FA changes of the PLIC were significantly correlated with the duration of internet addiction in the adolescents with IAD.
Our results suggested that long-term internet addiction would result in brain structural alterations, which probably contributed to chronic dysfunction in subjects with IAD. The current study may shed further light on the potential brain effects of IAD.
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