New research out of Germany suggests that an addiction to the Internet can result from a gene variation that is also linked to addiction to nicotine.
Researchers at the University of Bonn and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim compared the genomes of healthy individuals and those who reported that “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.”
They found that most of those who exhibited “problematic behaviour” with the Internet carried a particular variant of the CHRNA4 gene, which affects the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the brain, and plays an important role in activating the brain’s reward system.
Interestingly, though previous studies show that men are generally more prone to Internet addiction, the German study found the gene variant more prevalent in women. Lead author Dr. Christian Montag suggests that “the sex-specific genetic finding may result from a specific subgroup of Internet dependency, such as the use of social networks or such.”