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Why is social media use linked to brain changes in adolescents?

HOUSTON. As most teen parents will tell you, social media is increasingly becoming an important part of the teen social landscape. A new study suggests there may be a link between a constant stream of social interactions and changes in the brains of middle school students.

Neuroscientists at the University of North Carolina scanned the brains of children between the ages of 12 and 15 and found that those who checked their tape often showed clear changes, becoming more sensitive to social rewards over time.

So what does that mean? One of the researchers told the New York Times that teens who were really into social media experienced dramatic changes in how their brains reacted. They showed increased activity in parts of the brain that control your risk and reward responses, as well as in the prefrontal cortex, which helps with regulation and control. This could mean that teens using social media will become oversensitive to their peers’ feedback.

Experts warn not to give too much credit to these results, as social relationships are already expanding at this age, so changes in the brain could be part of the process. One expert told the Times that the researchers could capture the natural development of extroverts who are more likely to check social media more regularly than their introvert counterparts.

The moral of the story is that more research needs to be done about teenagers and social media.

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