The team found that there was far more GABA compared to Glx in the brains of those heavily addicted to smartphones, particularly in the anterior cingulate cortex, a segment that deals with impulse control, emotion, and attention. The higher the ratio, the more addicted to the Internet and smartphones the subjects appeared to be.
Fortunately, the GABA-Glx ratio became far more normal after the behavioral therapy was complete.
Correlation isn’t causation, of course, and it cannot be overstated that this study focused on an incredibly small population.
Again, most importantly, without even having a proper definition of what smartphone addiction is, it’s hard to say what exactly the team were measuring here – particularly without an accompanied, peer-reviewed study.
Is the condition real, or not? Without that starting point set in stone, it’s difficult to proceed. A review of the topic in 2016 concluded that “there is an almost indistinguishable or scantly differentiated use of the terms addiction, problematic use, and abuse in the literature.”
“While we have clearly shown that problematic cell-phone use is an emerging problem that is tightly linked to technological development, there is a lack of coherence and uniformity in the criteria for studying it that requires caution in accepting many of the conclusions indicated.”
At present, then, experts can’t be sure if it’s real or even how to properly define it. At the very least, this new study will shine a new spotlight on the subject and reignite the controversial debate.