Facebook addicts tend to have less gray matter in the reward center of their brain, new research shows.
The study, published in April in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioural Brain Research, does not establish whether less gray matter leads to more Facebook use or whether Facebook use decreases the amount of gray matter. To determine which comes first, author Christian Montag told PsyPost that longitudinal studies would be required.
Montag and his colleagues at Germany’s Ulm University were particularly interested in how Facebook use was linked to the nucleus accumbens, a structure that is stimulated whenever we do something the brain considers rewarding, such as eating food or having sex.
“We were able to demonstrate that the nucleus accumbens, a central region of the SEEKING system — others call it the reward system — plays an important role in understanding Facebook usage on smartphones,” Montag told PsyPost. “In short, the lower the gray matter volume in this area, the higher Facebook usage/frequency could be observed.”
PsyPost reports the study conducted MRI scans on 46 men and 39 women and used an app on their phones to track Facebook use over the course of five weeks.
“The present study investigated health young participants with ‘normal’ smartphone usage. Future research will show if excessive usage (which we did not investigate) could represent a behavioral addiction,” Montag said.