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Prefrontal Control and Internet Addiction

How Does Your Prefrontal Control Relate To Internet Addiction?

The following article is a summary of the review paper entitled, “Prefrontal control and Internet addiction: a theoretical model and review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings” by Brand, Matthias, Kimberly Young and Christian Laier, as published 27 May 2014 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience*:

While many people have control over their Internet usage and use it as a tool, some have lost that self control, resulting in negative and social personal consequences. This conclusion is based on a review of existing literature and on the authors’ experiences.

The world-wide scientific community has not yet standardized terminology nor testing related to Internet overuse that results in psychosocial distress. Nor has sufficient research been performed. In fact, the standard reference for American’s mental disorders, the DSM-5, includes only Internet Gaming Disorder. Certainly, however, other Internet-related disorders do occur.

The authors of the review article seek to determine why some people experience loss of self-control related to the Internet. Their hypothesis is that the loss of control occurs in part due to Internet-cues disrupting prefrontal processes.

One model of Internet Addiction states that addiction is linked to either a poor off-line social support and the negative feelings that result from that, or from a pre-disposition for a specific addiction (such as pornography) that happens to be available online. The authors add to this model the effect of negative and positive reinforcements that condition behavior. Expectations can also play a role in creating or maintaining addictive behavior. Expectancies, goals and needs, personality traits, predispositions and mental/emotional disorders can also play a role.

Our prefrontal cortex has been linked to our ability to control conscious behavior. The results of a study that utilized the Game of Dice Task, “suggest that patients with Internet addiction may have reductions in prefrontal control and other executive functioning.”

Neuroimaging has shown that excessive or frequent Internet gaming can change the volume of cells in various areas of the brain. While one study mentioned in the paper reported increased gray matter density, the other studies reported a reduced volume. Other studies provide tentative suggestions that people with Internet addiction have a modified dopamine system that may play a role in loss of control.

Research on Internet Addiction is increasing and tends to indicate that functional changes in certain areas of the brain are correlated to Internet addiction. Indeed, it appears “that prefrontal control processes are reduced in individuals who are addicted to the Internet and may be related to the patients’ loss of control over their Internet use.”

Nevertheless, more research is needed on (1) stimuli related to the Internet and brain function, (2) “different types of Internet addiction,” and (3) on women. Additionally, research that has already been performed needs to be repeated in different countries and on another age group (i.e., if the research has been done on adults, it needs to be done on adolescents, and vice versa).

People with lower pre-frontal control processes seem to have less ability to utilize coping mechanisms. This, tied with the reinforcements offered by the Internet, create a myopic, Internet-based view of the world. All of this needs to be taken into account by the clinician.

In conclusion, research on Internet Addiction has produced similar results to research on other forms of addiction. The authors of this review agree with other authors in that “this clinically relevant disorder should be classified as a behavioral addiction.”

*You can read the original article here: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00375/full

Neuroplasticity and Addiction Treatment: picture of red brain followed by an arrow and a blue brain, indicating how neuroplasticity allows the brain to change

What Role Does Neuroplasticity Have In Addiction Treatment?

Neuroplasticity, neuro (brain/nerve/neuron) and plasticity (moldability), is what neuroscientists refer to as the brains ability to change and adapt at any age. As we make decisions, think about something, make memories and feel emotions, neural pathways in the brain hold and store this information which can occur on different levels.

A great deal of research went into patients that suffered from disease and brain injuries as they realized that over time the brain found ways of rewiring itself to other parts of the brain, actually going around the injured area to reconnect with other neurons and compensate for the injury. This new finding created a positive response as doctors and therapists began looking for changes in the patient’s rewiring skills, as this ‘flexibility of reorganization’ was taking place and patients found that they could improve and recover.

Another important aspect to understand is realizing that addictions have 4 components:

  1. Using a behavioral action with the body
  2. Thinking thoughts before or after the behavior
  3. Feeling emotions that are generated as a result of the thought such as sadness, guilt, disappointment, shame, or depression
  4. The brain has a physical response to thoughts, feelings, and actions that causes neurochemicals to be released into the body as it responds to the behavior

Understanding these 4 components is crucial in treating addiction because it’s about the pleasure centers in the brain being seized and taken over. People create habits that generate different neural pathways in the brain which allows them to become accustomed to their new source of pleasure. The brain is now wired to link this sensation to feeling good from the pleasure they receive. Soon, the need for more creates an obsession to experience the euphoric sensations they previously had that ultimately creates an addiction. But this can all change, and here is an explanation why:

With the continued study of neuroplasticity, scientist realize that the brain is structured to change and can respond to certain stimuli over a person’s lifetime. Besides the way a brain can make changes when new information is presented, our behaviors are another way our brain and body react to certain stimuli like emotions, stress, and other physical senses. A person, addict or not, can walk into a room and smell something delicious baking in the oven that triggers a memory that they hadn’t thought of or remembered for a number of years. This stimulus recalls on cellular memory groups, and can be activated from this type of inducement, making it easy to remember or respond to the stimulus that was previously known. But for addicts, this is especially hard as it triggers the same feelings and images that they are trying to avoid.

Understanding behaviors and how closely they relate to our senses, memory, and cognition is important to comprehend when dealing with neuroplasticity and rewiring the brain. Since they all rely on repetition and other challenging activities, the brain is able to make changes and literally rewire new pathways to improve its performance. And the best part is that the more you practice this new way of thinking, new skills can be developed to create happy connections among neuron pathways in the brain.

Now that we understand that humans have the ability to change behaviors, those with sexual addictions can literally retrain their brains to make new pathways that will reconnect them to a healthier way of living.

Addiction Treatment and Neuroplasticity

(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)

Neuroplasticity is the alteration of neural pathways due to changes in behavior, environment and thinking processes.  New research is making discoveries about brain functions that were previously believed to be impossible in relation to neuroplasticity. It was not so long ago that the scientific community thought neuroplasticity within an adult brain was impossible.

 Read More . . . 

Empathy, Mirror Neurons, and Connecting With Others

This NOVA video discusses how a set of recently discovered brain neurons can help us have emphathy. First discovered in research with monkeys, mirror neurons, can help us connect with both the feelings and actions of others. They also show us that, “We are built to be together.”

 

 

Please share your thoughts about empathy and mirror neurons in the reply area below.

The Biochemistry of Addiction

There are many different parts of the brain with literally billions of different cells. As the different parts of the brain work together in harmony, optimal levels of functioning is achieved. Emotional and psychological trauma can changes the literal cellular structure of the brain. Addiction is a sign that some type of trauma has occurred, even if it is the substance or addictive process itself.

This handout discusses different parts of the brain. Research shows that each of these parts of the brain are involved in addictive and trauma process. Understanding the role that each part of the brain plays will help you as you engage in your healing process.

The cerebral cortex – This is the smart part of the brain. This is the brain that knows what to do in certain situations. This type of the brain knows how to avoid the addiction.

The limbic system – This is the emotional brain. It is made up of the following parts:

  • Amydala – This influences areas that meet the body’s needs such as eating, sex, and the emotion of anger.
  • Hippocampus – This part of the brain is involved in learning, memory, recognition of new things, and spacial relationships. This part of the brain helps to sort out what relevant aspects of events or facts will be stored.
  • The Thalamus – This is the relay station of the brain. This part of the brain sorts, interprets, and directors sensory signals received from the spinal chord and midbrain to the cerebral cortex.
  • Nucleus Accumbens – This part of the brain is what is known as the “reward” or pleasure center of the brain. This part of the brain is reinforced by neurotransmitters to help insure that life sustaining activities are repeated. When ever an individual eats, drinks, or engages in sexual activity, dopamine is released into this part of the brain and the individual experiences the sensation of pleasure. This is what is done when you engage in the addictive process.

Due to the biochemistry of addiction and trauma, an individual can experience a trigger and the emotional brain can react before the cognitive brain has a chance to even interpret what took place. This is the addictive and traumatic process. Treatment is about retraining the brain to employ the entire system of the brain so that it can all work together and hence increase an individuals ability to be healthy.