The Loh Down On Science

Smoking the Internet

Question: How is surfing the Internet like smoking?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Answer: Both are addictive habits, of course. Not convinced?

Psychologists at the University of Bonn say not only is Internet addiction real, it's likely genetic!

They surveyed over 800 people  about their surfing habits: Did their thoughts revolve obsessively around the Internet? Did they crave logging on? Did they suffer withdrawal without it?

The team then identified 132 people who showed signs of compulsive Internet use. Using DNA samples, they compared a genetic analysis of this group to a control group.

And? In the Internet group, a variant of one particular gene occurred more often than in controls.  That variant is also associated with nicotine addiction. And, like nicotine, it plays a role in activating the brain’s reward system.

In this study the variant occurred more often in women. But other studies show men as being more internet-addicted, so more work is needed.

Still, the findings could lead to helpful therapies.

Maybe even an online support group?  Oh, wait….

<em>The Loh Down on Science</em> is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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