Brain patterns similar in Facebook addicts and drug addicts!

New York, Jan 28: Scientists have found that people who experience compulsive urges to use Facebook have some brain patterns similar to those found in drug addicts. While compulsive Facebook users may have more activity in impulsive systems in the brain, the brain regions that inhibit this behaviour seem to work just fine, unlike in the brains of cocaine addicts, researchers said. One possibility is that, in cases of Facebook addiction, people are sensitised to respond strongly to positive triggers associated with the site, said study co-author Ofir Turel, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton.

They have the ability to control their behaviour, but they don't have the motivation to control this behaviour because they don't see the consequences to be that severe, Turel said. Turel and colleagues asked 20 undergraduate students to fill out a questionnaire that gauged addiction-type symptoms associated with Facebook use, such as withdrawal, anxiety and conflict over the site, 'Live Science' reported. The researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the participants' brains while they looked at a series of computer images - some Facebook logos, and others of neutral traffic signs. (Read: Lying on Facebook leads to false memories)

The students were told to either press or not press a button in response to each image. The higher people scored on the Facebook addiction survey, the more likely they were to quickly hit the button when viewing Facebook images compared to neutral images. Similarly, the participants were more likely to mistakenly press the button when they saw a Facebook logo versus a neutral traffic sign. The Facebook cues were much more potent triggers in people's brains than the traffic signs, Turel said. That means that, if you're driving on a street next to someone who has a compulsive relationship with Facebook, they are going to respond faster to beeps from their cellphone than to street signs, Turel said. (Read: Are you addicted to Facebook? You re at higher risk of substance abuse)

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The Facebook addicts showed greater activation of their amygdala and striatum, brain regions that are involved in impulsive behaviour. But unlike in the brains of cocaine addicts, for instance, the Facebook users showed no quieting of the brain systems responsible for inhibition in the prefrontal cortex. That could be because Facebook addiction is fundamentally unlike substance addiction, or it could be that the study only looked at people whose daily lives were not much impaired by their desire to be on Facebook, Turel said. The study was published in the journal Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma.

Here are a few tips to fight the Facebook Addiction

  1. Admit it. You are addicted to Facebook. It gives you the same rush, the same heady high of that first cigarette of the day. Admission is the first step to rehabilitation. This applies to any kind of addiction.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Your virtual life has taken over your real life. In fact, you end up thinking I need to update/upload this on my profile. Your need to take perfect holiday pictures overrules the actual enjoyment of the holiday. You need to focus on staying in the present.
  3. Pause to think before you log on to your account next time what am I looking for? Why am I here? Making a mental note about what you plan to do once you are logged on gives you a direction to follow. Make a physical note if you must.
  4. Reflect on what you did once you logged on Did I click on random feeds and pictures? Did I upload or commented once I logged on? Reflection will help you assess how much you were able to keep up with your plan. Most importantly, reflect on how you felt about what you did or read. Did it make you feel good or bad about yourself? If the answer to either is yes each time, your self-worth has started to depend on your virtual life rather than the real you. Read more about Beware too much Facebook will leave you depressed!

With inputs from PTI

Photo source: Getty images

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