What's the Latest Development?
A German scientist recently caused controversy by claiming to have found evidence that a gene which plays a role in nicotine addiction is also correlated with Internet addiction. The controversial claim made by the scientist is that, based on his findings, "Internet addiction is not a figment of our imagination," suggesting that physical addictions can be formed to non-chemical substances and that overuse of the Internet is not merely a bad habit. An important caveat to the research, says The Atlantic's Robert Wright is that "susceptibility to internet addiction...is 'in the genes'—but it's in lots and lots of genes, and it's in the genes of all of us."
What's the Big Idea?
Wright's point is that chemical addictions will necessarily involve chemical interactions in the brain, not simply those of addictive substances. The pleasurable responses we receive from our neurons when we engage in activities like eating good food and having sex evolved in a world of hunter-gatherer scarcity, not fast food restaurants and online pornography sites. "After all, the Internet, like chemicals, allows us to trigger our neuronal reward mechanisms with much less work, and much more frequently, than was possible in the environment of our evolution."
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