Smartphone addiction creates imbalance in brain, study suggests

Researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 46 percent of Americans say they could not live without their smartphones. While this sentiment is clearly hyperbole, more and more people are becoming increasingly dependent on smartphones and other portable electronic devices for news, information, games, and even the occasional phone call.

Along with a growing concern that young people, in particular, may be spending too much time staring into their phones instead of interacting with others, come questions as to the immediate effects on the brain and the possible long-term consequences of such habits.

Full story at Science Daily

Cocaine addiction leads to build-up of iron in brain

Cocaine addiction may affect how the body processes iron, leading to a build-up of the mineral in the brain, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. The study, published today in Translational Psychiatry, raises hopes that there may be a biomarker — a biological measure of addiction — that could be used as a target for future treatments.

Cocaine is one of the most widely-used illicit drugs in the Western world and is highly addictive. A report last year by the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs found that almost one in 10 of all 16-to 59-year-olds have used cocaine in their lifetime. Cocaine use was implicated in, but not necessarily the cause of 234 deaths in Scotland, England and Wales in 2013. However, despite significant advances in our understanding of the biology of addiction — including how the brains of people addicted to cocaine may differ in structure — there is currently no medical treatment for cocaine addiction; most individuals are treated with talking or cognitive therapies.

Full story of cocaine addiction and iron in the brain at Science Daily

Long-Term Stimulant Abuse May Have Bigger Effect on Brains of Women: Study

Long-term abuse of stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine may have a greater effect on the brains of women compared with men who were dependent on the same drugs, a new study suggests.

Women who used to be addicted to stimulant drugs have a smaller amount of a type of brain tissue called gray matter, compared with women who had not been dependent on stimulants, HealthDay reports. The women in the study had stopped using the drugs for about a year before they underwent brain scans. They also had less gray matter than men who had been drug-dependent and men who had not used stimulants.

“Gray matter is important because it is where signals are generated in the brain that gives us the ability to think, move and behave,” said study author Dr. Jody Tanabe of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Full story of stimulate abuse having effect on the brain in women at drugfree.org

Depression in dementia more common in community care, study finds

A University of Manchester study of over 400 people in eight EU countries with severe dementia has found that those residing in long-term care homes are less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms than those living in the community.

Researchers studied 414 people with severe dementia along with their carers in England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. The study gathered information on quality of life, activities of daily living such as bathing, feeding and dressing and presence of depressive symptoms using standardised measures.

In the groups studied, 37% of the 217 people living in the community showed signs of depression compared to 23% of the 197 in care homes. It is one of the few studies comparing similar groups of people living at home and in nursing homes.

Full story of depression in dementia at Science Daily

Smartphone-loss anxiety disorder

The smart phone has changed our behavior, sometimes for the better as we are now able to connect and engage with many more people than ever before, sometimes for the worse in that we may have become over-reliant on the connectivity with the outside world that these devices afford us. Either way, there is no going back for the majority of users who can almost instantaneously connect with hundreds if not thousands of people through the various social media and other applications available on such devices and not least through the humble phone call.

However, our dependence brings anxiety. The loss of one’s smart phone not only represents an immediate disconnection from one’s online contacts but is also a potential privacy and security risk should the lost phone wend its way into the hands of a malicious third party. Writing in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, a Canadian team outlines the possible coping mechanisms that might be needed following loss or theft and the security problems that the user might face. The researchers point out that the same anxieties apply equally to lost or stolen laptops, tablet computers and other digital devices.