Internet Addiction May Prove Related to Genetics

By Steve Anderson September 04, 2012

Most of us have been there at one point or another, longing to slip out of whatever it is we're doing at the time and go check our e-mail, or our Facebook page, or the comments section of our favorite blog to see if anyone picked up on our newest witticisms. But for some, that longing is sufficiently powerful, and sufficiently frequent, that it moves into the land of addiction. Recent studies, meanwhile, have shown that the Internet addiction that some have is less a matter of willpower, and more a matter of genetics.

Image via Shutterstock

Research from a coalition comprised of the University of Bonn in Germany and Mannheim's Central Institute of Mental Health began with DNA samples from individuals with what were called "troublesome relationships to the Internet", and then compared them against those of individuals that didn't. The "troublesome relationships" samples showed a genetic mutation that was previously associated with nicotine addiction, one that wasn't found in those of the individuals without the problem.

Researchers used a total sample size of 843 people, and found 132 of them in the sample with those "problematic relationships", and when checking their DNA, found that they were more likely to carry the genetic mutation. In fact, they discovered that it actually happened more often in women than in men, and researchers are now looking to the CHRNA4 gene, which activates the brain's reward center in Internet addicts. That in turn is part of how nicotine addicts' brains function, so calling the two processes similar is well in line.

Internet addiction is a problem, but in many cases it's a problem that's made fun of almost as much as it is seriously addressed. Its comparatively recent emergence--the Internet has only been around in a major commercial form for around 20 years now--has also left it less understood than addictions to substances that have been around for centuries like drugs, alcohol and even sex.

Still, the identification of a potential genetic component to Internet addiction may provide key insight into its diagnosis and treatment, which in turn has the potential to restore quality of life to many people out there who may not even know that that "just one more click" has turned into an addiction.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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