People’s smartphone addiction could be causing an important imbalance in the brain, according to a new study.

The research looked at people who were tied to their phone and the internet. And it found that it appeared to be doing damage to the way their brain works, causing chemical unbalances that could cause severe anxiety and tiredness.

People who described themselves as being addicted to their phone were put through a test known as an MRS, which looks at the chemical makeup of people’s brains. They measured levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that slows down signals in the brain.

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It found that the ratio of GABA to another important neurotransmitter was off in people who had been diagnosed with internet and smartphone addiction. That could be having deep effects on the way their brain works, the researchers said.

previous studies have linked GABA to vision and motor control and the regulation of various brain functions, including anxiety. The changes in the brain could also be linked to problems with processing information and emotions, according to Hyung Suk Seo, the Korea University professor who carried out the research.

The study looked at 19 young people, all of whom had been diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction. They were paired with a set of people who hadn’t but were of the same age and gender.

The participants were scored on how intense their smartphone or internet addiction was. That was done by putting them through a questionnaire – looking at how much their phone ruins their productivity or sleeping patterns, for instance – that gave them a score that could then be used to calculate how severe their addiction is.

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It found that the ratios of GABA to creatine and glutamate, two other important acids, were correlated to the score of how addicted people were to the internet and their phones, and to depression and anxiety.