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Social Media Checking Behaviors in Teens Linked to Brain Changes

Teens with habitual social media checking behaviors showed lower neural sensitivity to social anticipation in amygdala, other areas

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 3, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Social media checking behaviors in early adolescence may be associated with changes in areas of the brain linked to sensitivity to social rewards and punishments, according to a study published online Jan. 3 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Maria T. Maza, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues conducted a three-year longitudinal cohort study of functional magnetic resonance imaging among sixth- and seventh-grade students from schools in rural North Carolina.

A total of 169 participants met the inclusion criteria. The researchers found that compared with those with nonhabitual checking behaviors, participants with habitual social media checking behaviors showed lower neural sensitivity to social anticipation at age 12 years in the left amygdala, posterior insula (PI), and ventral striatum (VS); right amygdala; right anterior insula (AI); and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Longitudinal increases in the left amygdala/PI/VS, right amygdala, right AI, and left DLPFC were seen during social anticipation among those with habitual checking behaviors, while longitudinal decreases in the left amygdala/PI/VS, right amygdala, right AI, and left DLPFC were seen among those with nonhabitual checking behaviors.

“Further research examining long-term prospective associations between social media use, adolescent neural development, and psychological adjustment is needed to understand the effects of a ubiquitous influence on development for today’s adolescents,” the authors write.

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