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Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Nov;39(11):4471-4479. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24286. Epub 2018 Jun 28.

Impact of frequency of internet use on development of brain structures and verbal intelligence: Longitudinal analyses.

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Division of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
Division of Medical Neuroimaging Analysis, Department of Community Medical Supports, Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
Department of Nuclear Medicine & Radiology, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, Tokyo, Japan.
Division of Clinical research, Medical-Industry Translational Research Center, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine, Fukushima, Japan.
Human and Social Response Research Division, International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
Smart Ageing International Research Centre, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.


Excessive internet use is shown to be cross sectionally associated with lower cognitive functioning and reduced volume of several brain areas. However, the effects of daily internet use on the development of verbal intelligence and brain structures have not been investigated. Here, we cross sectionally examined the effects of the frequency of internet use on regional gray/white matter volume (rGMV/rWMV) and verbal intelligence as well as their longitudinal changes after 3.0 ± 0.3 (standard deviation) years in a large sample of children recruited from the general population (mean age, 11.2 ± 3.1 years; range, 5.7-18.4 years). Although there were no significant associations in cross sectional analyses, a higher frequency of internet use was found to be associated with decrease of verbal intelligence and smaller increase in rGMV and rWMV of widespread brain areas after a few years in longitudinal analyses. These areas involve areas related to language processing, attention and executive functions, emotion, and reward. In conclusion, frequent internet use is directly or indirectly associated with decrease of verbal intelligence and development to smaller gray matter volume at later stages.


brain development; gray matter volume; internet use; verbal intelligence; white matter volume

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