LONDON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- People addicted to the Internet show changes in their brains similar to those observed in alcoholics and cocaine addicts, scientists in China say.
A comparison of brain scans of young people with "Internet addiction disorder" and their peers found changes in the white matter fibers connecting emotional processing, attention and decision making parts of the brain, they said.
Writing in the journal Public Library of Science One, the Chinese researchers said "the findings suggest that white matter integrity may serve as a potential new treatment target in Internet addiction disorder."
However, they acknowledged they don't know if the observed changes in the brain are the cause of the addiction or a consequence of it, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.
Studies have suggested one in 10 Internet users can be addicted, becoming so absorbed in Web use they go without food or drink for prolonged periods, experts say.
"The majority of people we see with serious Internet addiction are gamers -- people who spend long hours in roles in various games that cause them to disregard their obligations," Henrietta Bowden Jones, a psychiatrist at Imperial College, London, said.
Jones runs Britain's only National Health Service clinic for Internet addicts.
"I have seen people who stopped attending university lectures, failed their degrees or their marriages broke down because they were unable to emotionally connect with anything outside the game," she said.