SMARTPHONES are changing the way our brains work.
Emerging research suggests excessive mobile phone use can rewire neural pathways, increase anxiety and mimic the symptoms of autism and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Professor Katina Michael, from the University of Wollongong, has been researching phone and internet addiction for more than 20 years. She said obsessive compulsive-like behaviour on phones was having an enormous impact on society, particularly in younger generations.
“We have a whole generation of kids unable to identify mood from facial expressions,” Prof Michael said. “Addictions to social media like Facebook can mimic symptoms of autism in adolescents.” Prof Michael added that compulsive use of devices was hijacking the brain’s pleasure and reward centres.
“It creates an unending feedback loop in the brain,’’ she said. “The brain is never satisfied — no matter how many ‘likes’ you get or times you check your phone. That’s where the anxiety comes from.” Phones could also have an effect even when not in use.
A University of Chicago study found negative cognitive effects of mobile phone use remained even when the phone was off but nearby. Prof Michael said children needed classroom lessons on the addictive qualities of smartphones.
Citation: Peter Bateman, April 8, 2018, "Autism-like symptoms showing up", Herald-Sun, p. 27.