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Internet addiction -- Causes at the molecular level
Date:8/29/2012

This release is available in German.

"It was shown that Internet addiction is not a figment of our imagination," says the lead author, Privatdozent Dr. Christian Montag from the Department for Differential and Biological Psychology at the University of Bonn. "Researchers and therapists are increasingly closing in on it." Over the past years, the Bonn researchers have interviewed a total of 843 people about their Internet habits. An analysis of the questionnaires shows that 132 men and women in this group exhibit problematic behavior in how they handle the online medium; all their thoughts revolve around the Internet during the day, and they feel their wellbeing is severely impacted if they have to go without it.

Gene variation more frequent in Internet addicts

The researchers from the University of Bonn and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim compared the genetic makeup of the problematic Internet users with that of healthy control individuals. This showed that the 132 subjects are more often carriers of a genetic variation that also plays a major role in nicotine addiction. "What we already know about the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the brain is that a mutation on the related gene promotes addictive behavior," explains Dr. Montag. Nicotine from tobacco fits - just like acetylcholine, which is produced by the body - like a key into this receptor. Both these neurotransmitters play a significant role in activating the brain's reward system. "It seems that this connection is not only essential for nicotine addiction, but also for Internet addiction," reports the Bonn psychologist.

Women more affected by this mutation

The actual mutation is on the CHRNA4 gene that changes the genetic makeup for the Alpha 4 subunit on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. "Within the group of su
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Contact: Christian Montag
christian.Montag@uni-bonn-diff.de
0049-228-734-309
University of Bonn
Source:Eurekalert

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