Science Illustrated

The Brain 'Forces' Us To Check Facebook

Reckless brain cells make you stick to that news feed, but brain scans show that constant compulsive Internet action breaks down your brain.


Amajor study including more than 11,000 European teenagers showed that 4.4 % were addicted to the Internet. This led to spending less time on activities with friends and family. According to some scientists, Internet addiction is a variant of the OCD mental disorder, which causes compulsive action that the cells of the brain are unable to control. However, the compulsive action can be halted, and perhaps it is a good idea to forget about social media updates. Chinese scientists have shown that prolonged Internet addiction causes major brain injury.


Delete the app from your phone and only check social media on your computer. Replace the behaviour with reading a good book, etc.

dopamine blurs our ability to think rationally, and that is the reason why it is difficult for us to quit our bad habits.

However, Susan Courtney’s experiment also showed that the participan­ts reacted differentl­y. Some released more dopamine than others at the sight of the red figures, and those test subjects also found it more difficult to focus on the new task. The difference means that some people will be more inclined to become addicts and have more difficulti­es getting rid of bad habits. RATIONAL NEURONS LOSE THE FIGHT An even more detailed impression of reason’s struggle with temptation­s was produced, when Nicole Calakos from the American Duke University took a closer look at the brains of addicted lab mice. She divided the mice into two groups and trained one group to become very addicted to sugar. Subsequent­ly, she opened the mice’s brains to find out if the bad habit had left marks on the densely packed networks of the brain.

It had indeed. In the basal ganglia, which include the reward centre, scientists found two types of nerve cells that they named stop and go neurons. Signals in the go network speed up unhealthy behaviour, whereas the stop network tries to stop it. In both normal and addicted mice, the two networks were entangled, and both networks

were very active. However, scientists discovered that it was the timing between the signals from the stop and go neurons that determined whether reason or temptation won the battle in the end. In normal mice, the stop neurons started before the go neurons, enabling the mice to control their craving. In the addicted mice, the stop neurons tried to curb the sugar intake, but the effort was in vain, as the go neurons were faster, managing to start the behaviour. The high sugar intake had reprogramm­ed the brain and distorted the mice’s ability to control their own behaviour. The experiment also demonstrat­ed that the mice which boasted the most efficient go networks had greater difficulti­es quitting the unhealthy food, and just like Susan Courtney’s experiment, this indicates that some people may need more than reason to get rid of their addiction.


The results of the two experiment­s allow the developmen­t of new treatments which can help highly addicted people get rid of their bad habits. According to Susan Courtney, it may be possible to produce drugs that restrain the dopamine signals in the reward centre and consequent­ly support reason in the struggle against bad habits. Nicole Calakos, on the other hand, emphasises the use of magnetic fields which can stimulate the brain’s stop signals and strengthen the networks that are to help us all keep our New Year resolution­s.

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 ??  ?? Mouse experiment­s show that two types of brain neurons struggle to control your behaviour. Go neuron Stop neuron
Mouse experiment­s show that two types of brain neurons struggle to control your behaviour. Go neuron Stop neuron

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